Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable as Zeuxine polygonoides
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Zeuxine polygonoides (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008xh) [Conservation Advice].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Zeuxine polygonoides (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2012bc) [Listing Advice].
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, included on the Not Commenced List (1/11/2009).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat abatement advice for predation, habitat degradation,competition and disease transmission by feral pigs (2013) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2014p) [Threat Abatement Plan].
Policy Statements and Guidelines Draft survey guidelines for Australia's threatened orchids (Department of the Environment, 2013b) [Admin Guideline].
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Zeuxine polygonoides.
State Listing Status
QLD: Listed as Vulnerable (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list) as Zeuxine polygonoides
Scientific name Zeuxine polygonoides [46794]
Family Orchidaceae:Orchidales:Liliopsida:Magnoliophyta:Plantae
Species author (F.Muell.) Cribb
Infraspecies author  
Reference Australian Orchid Research 1 (Aug. 1989) 147.
Other names Hetaeria polygonoides [6238]
Orchiodes polygonoides [27368]
Etaeria polygonoides [26811]
Goodyera polygonoides [44053]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Zeuxine polygonoides

Common name: Velvet Jewel Orchid

Conventionally accepted as Zeuxine polygonoides, this species is synonymous with Rhomboda polygonoides (Goodyera polygonoides), Hetaeria polygonoides, Etaeria polygonoides and Orchiodes polygonoides (CHAH 2010).

The Velvet Jewel Orchid is a deciduous, terrestrial orchid with fleshy, creeping above-ground stems which grows amongst leaf litter. The leaf bearing stems are erect, 5–10 cm long and bear 3–5 leaves that are spirally arranged up the stem. The leaf blades are narrowly ovate in outline, measuring 3–8 cm long by 1.2–2.2 cm wide and are dark velvet green or bronze green with a broad white stripe running along the middle of the leaf. The inflorescence (flowerhead) is 8–15 cm long and bears 5–14 loosely arranged flowers. The flowers are about 6 mm wide. The three sepals are green, the two petals and the labellum (lip) are white. The uppermost sepal and the petals are fused, forming a horizontal hood; the lateral sepals are widely spreading (Dockrill 1992; Jones 1988).

In Australia, the Velvet Jewel Orchid is confined to north-east Queensland where it occurs from near Kuranda to the Cardwell Range, Cardwell (Australian National Herbarium 2009; Queensland Herbarium 2009). There are also locations reported as far north as the Daintree River and south to the Paluma Range (Dockrill 1992; Jones 1988, 2006).

The Velvet Jewel Orchid is known from an area of approximately 1700 km2. This does not include the distributional range reported for the Daintree River to Paluma Range areas (Dockrill 1992; Jones 1988, 2006) and any records with imprecise locality data. There is insufficient data to show a past or future decline in the extent of occurrence.

The Velvet Jewel Orchid is recorded from four locations in Australia (Australian National Herbarium 2009; Australian Tropical Herbarium n.d.; Queensland Herbarium 2009):

  • near Mt Formartine, Kuranda National Park
  • Saddle Mountain, near Kuranda within Kuranda National Park
  • Peter Creek, near Gordonvale (land tenure unknown)
  • Cardwell Range, Girramay National Park.

The Velvet Jewel Orchid is recorded from Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands (Dockrill 1992; Jones 1988).

The Velvet Jewel Orchid is noted to be common at one site (Kirrama Range) and about 20 plants at another (Cardwell Range) (Queensland Herbarium 2009). The species requires accurate survey to precisely determine the number of subpopulations, geographical range, area of occupancy and number of individuals. The likelihood of locating additional locations within the extent of occurrence is considered to be high (Queensland Herbarium 2009). The records from the Daintree River area and the Paluma Range need to be confirmed.

Three Velvet Jewel Orchid sites are within Queensland conservation reserves (Australian National Herbarium 2009; Australian Tropical Herbarium n.d.; Queensland Herbarium 2009), where the species is not actively managed. These conservation reserves are:

  • Mt Formartine, and Saddle Mountain, Kuranda National Park,
  • Cardwell Range, Girramay National Park.

In Australia, the Velvet Jewel Orchid grows in moist shady sites in rainforests (mesophyll vine forests and simple notophyll vine forests) in leaf litter on the ground or on large boulders adjacent to streams. Altitudinal range is 450–820 m above sea level (Dockrill 1992; Jones 1988; Metcalfe et al. 2008).

The Velvet Jewel Orchid is found mostly from moist, cloudy or very wet rainfall zones on metamorphic substrates, granite or rhyolite (Metcalfe et al. 2008). The species can be found in humus on flat topped rocks in association with Anoectochilus yatesiae, Goodyera viridiflora and Liparis simmondsii (Harris 2001 pers. comm.). The Velvet Jewel Orchid is found in the following Regional Ecosystems:

  • 7.11.1a: mesophyll vine forest in very high rainfall lowlands and foothills on metamorphics
  • 7.12.16a: simple notophyll vine forest (often with Bull Kauri (Agathis microstachya)) in cloudy wet to moist uplands on granite and rhyolite.

The distribution of this species overlaps with the "Mabi Forest (Complex Notophyll Vine Forest 5b)" EPBC Act-listed Critically Endangered ecological community.

The Velvet Jewel Orchid is recorded to flower from June to August (Dockrill 1992; Jones 1988, 2006). Apomyxis (asexual reproduction) is not reported for the genus, however there is some evidence that the species may also reproduce vegetatively from fractured stem fragments (Harris 2001 pers comm.). The fleshy stems lie dormant over late spring and summer and sprout during the wet season to produce new leafy stems and roots (Jones 1988).

The Velvet Jewel Orchid is readily recognised when in leaf (late summer to spring) by the white central band on the leaf blades (Jones 1988).

Illegal collecting of the Velvet Jewel Orchid is a past, current and future potential threat to all populations. Most orchids are under threat from over-collecting by orchid enthusiasts. The attractive leaves of this species make it desirable (Qld EPA 2007a). Feral Pigs (Sus scrofa) may also be a potential threat due to habitat disturbance (AGDEH 2005p).

Threat management options are outlined in the Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Zeuxine polygonoides (TSSC 2008xh) and the Threat Abatement Plan for Predation, Habitat Degradation, Competition and Disease Transmission by Feral Pigs (AGDEH 2005p).

The Velvet Jewel Orchid is included in plants with special restrictions on taking and use under Queensland Nature Conservation Act Regulations. It is illegal to harvest from the wild, propagate or sell restricted plants or plant parts without a special licence, which is granted only if specific evidence is provided to show that the wild harvesting is ecologically sustainable.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Biological Resource Use:Gathering Terrestrial Plants:Illegal collection Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Zeuxine polygonoides (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008xh) [Conservation Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Sus scrofa (Pig) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Zeuxine polygonoides (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008xh) [Conservation Advice].

Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH) (2005p). Threat Abatement Plan for Predation, Habitat Degradation, Competition and Disease Transmission by Feral Pigs. [Online]. Available from:

Australian National Herbarium (2009). Specimen Information Register database. [Online]. Available from:

Australian Tropical Herbarium (n.d.). Specimen information. [Online]. Australian Tropical Herbarium, Cairns. Available from:

Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH) (2010). Australian Plant Census. [Online]. Australian National Herbarium, Australian National Botanic Gardens and Australian Biological Resources Study . Available from:

Dockrill, A.W. (1992). Australian indigenous orchids, revised edition. Sydney, SGAP, NSW Region.

Harris, W.K. (2001). Personal Communication.

Jones, D.L. (1988). Native Orchids of Australia. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Reed.

Jones, D.L. (2006). A complete guide to Native Orchids of Australia, including the island Territories. Sydney, NSW: New Holland Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd.

Metcalfe, D.J., A.J. Ford & T. Lawson (2008). Identification of Relevant Regional Ecosystems for the EPBC Act listed Threatened species in the Far North Queensland 2025 Planning Region. Atherton; CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.

Queensland Environmental Protection Agency (Qld EPA) (2007a). Endangered Plants. [Online]. Available from:

Queensland Herbarium (2009). Specimen label information.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Zeuxine polygonoides in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Sat, 20 Sep 2014 18:10:49 +1000.