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  Monadenia bracteata

Monadenia bracteata (Sw.) Durand & Schinz
M. micrantha Lindley


Preferred common name:
 brown finger orchid (3).

Other common names:
South African Orchid (13)

Information compiled by:
Maurice Roche


flower spike
flower spike

Origins of the name:
  Greek Monachos, solitary; aden, a gland. Bracteate, with bracts (5).

Useful plants in the same family:
The largest family in the world, orchids represent nearly a tenth of all flowering plants (5). They occupy a diverse range of habitats from Alaska to Macquarie Island and are most diverse and abundant in the moist tropics. They are important ecologically having symbiotic relationships with soil fungi and a variety of insect pollinators. They are cultivated for commercial purpose (4). This orchid could possibly be confused with indigenous orchids such as those of the genera Microtis or Prasophyllum.

Weeds in the same family:

There are no other invasive introduced orchids in South Australia. However, given their biological diversity, the potential exists for some species (for example those which are self-pollinating and wind dispersed like Monadenia bracteata) to be invasive when removed from their natural range.

Weedy Significance:

Monadenia bracteata degrades native vegetation, competing with many small understorey plants such as lilies, as well as local indigenous orchids (11).

World distribution:
One of 20 Monadenia species endemic in South Africa (2). In Australia it has escaped orchid collections where it was cultivated as a curiosity (4).

Australian distribution:
In WA it has become naturalised in moist disturbed areas on the Coastal Plain and Darling Scarp from Perth southward. It extends through near-coastal areas to Esperance (2).
In SA it has been recorded in the South-east at Nanggwarry, near Eden Valley in the Murray region, in the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges at Mount Crawford Forest, Second Valley on the Fleurieu Peninsula, Mount Bold, Scott Creek, Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, Cherryville, Mylor and Aldgate (6). South Australian populations also exist in Belair Recreation Park (9), Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park(7) and Para Wirra Recreation Park(8).

In Victoria it is recorded at Lower Glenelg National Park, White Elephant Hills near Bacchus Marsh and near Melbourne at Hurstbridge (12). Recently populations have been recorded at Stawell and near Bendigo(Moerkerk)

Monadenia bracteata is not a proclaimed species anywhere in Australia.

Control options:


A tuberous, self-pollinated, perennial herb(1) which flowers from October to November(2). The tuber is dormant for much of the year. In early spring it grows a rosette of leaves and in October, a flowering stem carrying up to 50 flowers (10). Each plant produces tens of thousands of seeds that are dispersed by the wind (11).



A rosette of soft grass-like leaves. A thick, fleshy flower spike of tiny brown flowers among overlapping green bracts (10).

Mature plant:
 "Erectů, usually 0.2-0.3 m high, with a large tuber. Leaves numerous, decreasing in size progressively up the stem; lower leaves 50-150 mm long, tapering from a broad base to an acuminate apex, channelled. Spike cylindric, many-flowered, 20-200 mm long. Flower bracts leaf-like, markedly exceeding the flowers in the lower part of the inflorescence but the uppermost bracts often slightly shorter than the flowers. Sepals greenish-white, with a red or red-brown apex, 3 mm long; adaxial sepal erect, 3-4 mm long, adaxially spurred; spur pendulose, reddish, 4-5 mm long, narrow; lateral sepals spreading, recurved, ca 3mm long. Lateral petals slightly shorter than the sepals. Labellum yellow, ca 2 mm long. Ovary 5-7 mm long." (2)

Dust sized (10).

Immature plants:
 A rosette of many narrow, tapered leaves(10).


Usually solitary, directly below the rosette(10).

Potential benefits of the weed:
Ornamental (1)

References and further reading:

(1) Lazarides, M., Cowley, K. and Hohnen, P. (1997) Handbook of Australian Weeds. CSIRO, Collingwood, Vic.

(2) Marchant, N.G., Wheeler, J.R., Rye, B.L., Bennett, E.M., Lander, N.S. and Macfarlane, T.D. (1987) Flora of the Perth region, Vol. 2, Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Perth, WA.

(3) http://www.general.uwa.edu.au/u/btizard/Floralist.html 30/3/2000

(4) Bates, R.J., and Weber, J.Z. (1990) Orchids of South Australia, The Flora and Fauna of South Australia Handbooks Committee, South Australia.

(5) Flora of South Australia Part IV (1986) J.P. Jessop and H.R. Toelken eds. The Flora and Fauna of South Australia Handbooks Committee, South Australia.

(6) ADHERB [vl. 4, 22sep99] State Herbarium of South Australia.

(7) Cathy Potts, pers. com. 31/1/2000.

(8) Amanda McNicol, pers. com. 16/3/2000.

(9) Bates, B. (1996) The History of Monadenia Native Orchid Society of South Australia, J20: 25-26

(10) Robertson, E. and Bates, R. Monadenia a Weedy Alien Orchid. State Herbarium of South Australia information sheet.

(11) http://www.treesforlife.org.au/rogues/weeds/monadenia.html 22/3/2000

(12) Csurhes, S. and Edwards, R. (1998) Potential Environmental Weeds in Australia: Candidate Species for Preventative Control. Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia, Canberra.

(13) Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery G.K., Cousens R.D., Dodd J. and Lloyd S.G. (1997) Western Weeds: A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. Plant Protection Society of Western Australia.


8th May 2001, Listed 22/11/2000 by Michael Moerkerk


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