Nervilia Comm. ex Gaudich.
  • Comm. ex Gaudich., Voy. Uranie: 422 (1829)

This is a synonym of Nerviliinae Schltr.

General Description

Terrestrial herbs growing from underground, spherical tubers. Leaf solitary, usually produced after the inflorescence has withered, ovate, lanceolate-elliptic or heart-shaped, erect or borne parallel to the substrate, either adpressed to the substrate or above it, green or marked or spotted with purple on upper side, green or purple beneath, hairy or glabrous. Inflorescence erect, racemose; floral bracts lanceolate, persistent. Flowers short-lived, resupinate, subcampanulate, spreading or pendent, sometimes self-pollinating. Sepals subsimilar, not spreading widely, linear-lanceolate. Petals similar to sepals but shorter and membranous. Labellum embracing the column, entire to trilobed, bearing a lamellate or hairy callus, rarely spurred at base. Column clavate; anther incumbent, two-celled; pollinia two, sectile; stigma ventral. Ovary six-ribbed. Capsule strongly keeled in N. sect. Nervilia. (PC).

Terrestrial herbs arising from small tubers. Tubers ovoid or ellipsoid, ± dorsiventrally flattened, ± pubescent. Hysterantherous, with the leaf appearing after the flowering stem has withered. Leaf erect, suberect or prostrate, solitary, lanceolate, ovate, cordate or reniform, glabrous or pubescent; petiole short or long, often sulcate, subtended at the base by a sheathing, acute or obtuse cataphyll. Inflorescence erect, 1–many-flowered, racemose. Scape bearing 3–4 ± sheathing cataphylls, ± elongating after fertilisation. Flowers erect, horizontal or pendent (mostly pendent when fertilised), green, yellow, brown, white, pink or purple; bracts lanceolate, very acute; pedicel thin, ridged; ovary ellipsoidal, 3- or 6-ridged. Sepals and petals subsimilar, lanceolate. Lip entire or trilobed, ± papillate or pubescent, sometimes spurred. Column ± clavate; anther terminal, conical to oblong; pollinia 2, granular; stigma ventral, orbicular to triangular, towards apex of column, separated from anther by a broad blunt rostellum.

Terrestrial tuberous herb in which the leaves are produced after the flowers (hysteranthous); tubers subterranean subspherical, rhizomatouswith 2–7 internodes, bearing short straight roots andashort ascending stem 1–15 cm long.Foliar leaf solitary, erect or prostrate, plicate, non-articulate, elliptic to reniform or almost circular, the upper surface sometimes pubescent and/or with various silvery patterns, the lower surface often purple.Inflorescence erect, 1–many-flowered, racemose; scape 2–60 cm long.Flowers resupinate or (in some 1-flowered species) erect; tepals except the lip similar, green or brownish-green; lip spurless or shortly spurred, 3-lobed to almost entire, often more or less papillate or pubescent and variously marked with red; column long, curved or almost straight, more or less slender towards the base; clinandrium a deep apical cavity embracing a large part of the anther; stigma ventral, elliptic to almost square, viscidium diffuse; anther incumbent, hinged; pollinia 2, bipartite, sectile.


Plants of Nervilia are terrestrial in deciduous and semi-deciduous forests and wooded savanna in dappled light or shade from sea level to 2500 m. A few species such as N. pectinata P. J. Cribb, N. subintegra Summerh.,N. fuerstenbergiana Schltr., and N. bicarinata Schltr. also occur in moister forest types such as riverine and coastal rain forests (Pettersson 1990a). (PC).


A genus of about 60 species in the Cape Verde Islands, tropical and southern Africa, Madagascar, Yemen, subtropical and tropical Asia, the Malay Archipelago, the Philippines, the Ryukyu Islands, New Guinea, tropical Australia, and the southwest Pacific islands. (PC).


The tubers of N. flabelliformis (Lindl.) T. Tang & F. T. Wang are chewed in Guam to quench thirst, and the leaves of the same species are boiled and used as a post-parturition prophylactic. In addition, leaves of N. discolor are variously used as an analgesic and in childbirth (Lawler 1984). No species is commonly cultivated. (AP).


in Freyc., Voy. Bot.: 421, t. 35 (1829); Schltr. in E.J. 45: 399–405 (1911) & 53: 550–555 (1915), nom. conserv.

in Frey., Voyage, 421 (1829); F.T.A. 7: 186 (as Pogonia Juss.). Nom. cons.

in Freycinet, Voyage Monde, Bot.: t. 35 (1827), 421 (1829) nom. conserv. —Summerhayes in F.W.T.A., ed. 2, 3: 206 (1968). —Cribb in F.T.E.A., Orchidaceae: 267 (1984). —Geerinck in Fl. Afr. Centr., Orchidaceae pt. 1: 251 (1984). —Pettersson in Lindleyana 4: 33 (1989); in Nordic J. Bot. 9: 487 (1990); in Orchid Monogr. 5 (1991).

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
Found in
  • Africa East Tropical Africa Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Macaronesia Cape Verde
  • Northeast Tropical Africa Chad
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Sudan
  • South Tropical Africa Angola
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Southern Africa KwaZulu-Natal
  • Northern Provinces
  • Swaziland
  • West Tropical Africa Benin
  • Burkina
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Ivory Coast
  • Liberia
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Togo
  • West-Central Tropical Africa Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Congo
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Gabon
  • Gulf of Guinea Is.
  • Rwanda
  • Zaire
  • Western Indian Ocean Comoros
  • Madagascar
  • Mauritius
  • Réunion
  • Asia-Temperate Arabian Peninsula Oman
  • Yemen
  • China China North-Central
  • China South-Central
  • China Southeast
  • Hainan
  • Tibet
  • Eastern Asia Japan
  • Korea
  • Nansei-shoto
  • Taiwan
  • Asia-Tropical Indian Subcontinent Assam
  • Bangladesh
  • East Himalaya
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • West Himalaya
  • Indo-China Andaman Is.
  • Laos
  • Myanmar
  • Nicobar Is.
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Malesia Borneo
  • Jawa
  • Lesser Sunda Is.
  • Malaya
  • Maluku
  • Philippines
  • Sulawesi
  • Sumatera
  • Papuasia New Guinea
  • Solomon Is.
  • Australasia Australia Northern Territory
  • Queensland
  • Pacific Northwestern Pacific Caroline Is.
  • Marianas
  • South-Central Pacific Cook Is.
  • Society Is.
  • Southwestern Pacific Fiji
  • New Caledonia
  • Niue
  • Samoa
  • Tonga
  • Vanuatu
  • Wallis-Futuna Is.

Included Species


 Information From

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa. Published on the Internet;
Flora Zambesiaca
Flora Zambesiaca. Published on the Internet;
Flora of West Tropical Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa. Published on the Internet;
WCS higher taxonomy
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World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
WCSP 2014. 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; Retrieved 2011 onwards
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