Nervilia ballii G.Will.
  • Pl. Syst. Evol. 134: 66 (1980) 

Notes: Distribution: S. Tanzania to S. Trop. Africa

General Description

Erect terrestrial herb 11–30 cm tall, glabrous except for lip and subterranean parts.Tuber 15–17 × 15 × 10–15 mm in diameter, subspherical or ovoid, (2)3–5-noded.Leaf solitary, appearing after flowering, erect, 5–6 × 3–4 cm, ovate, acute, glabrous, heavily pleated, dark olive-green above with silvery lines along the veins, dark purple beneath; petiole c. 6 cm long, sulcate with 1–2 sheathing cataphylls when young.Scape erect, 1(2)-flowered, with 3–4 sheathing cataphylls, the uppermost sometimes bract-like and up to 4 cm long.Flower reddish tinged on the outside; bracts 1–2, 14–23 × 0.6–1.6 mm, filamentous to lanceolate.Sepals and petals subequal, lanceolate, acute, greenish with red veins and a general reddish tinge to the outside; lateral sepals slightly oblique, 19.5–25 × 3–4.5 mm; petals slightly shorter than sepals.Lip cream or pale yellow with a prominent red or purple venation, 18–25 × 14–18 mm, ovate to oblong-ovate, obscurely 3-lobed, bearing 2 parallel fleshy pubescent ridges from base of lip to base of mid-lobe; side lobes rounded or oblong, obtuse, erect, enclosing the column; mid-lobe ovate, reflexed.Column curved, 9–13.5 mm long, clavate, glabrous; anther front rim with two protruding teeth; anther purple; pollinia yellow, c. 2.5 mm long; ovary 4.5–5.5 mm long.

An erect terrestrial herb to 30 cm. tall. Tuber ovoid, slightly compressed, pubescent, 1.4–1.6 cm. diameter. Leaf unknown. Inflorescence 1-flowered; scape with 3–4 acute sheathing cataphylls; bracts 1–2, narrowly lanceolate to linear, to 2.3 cm. long, acute. Flower suberect to nodding, green to yellow-green, ± suffused with purple; lip white or greenish white, veined with purple. Sepals lanceolate, porrect, 1.9–2.2 cm. long, 0.4 cm. wide, acute. Petals similar to sepals, 1.8–1.9 cm. long, 0.4 cm. wide, acute. Lip ovate to oblong-ovate, obscurely 3-lobed in apical third, 1.8–2.4 cm. long, 1.4–1.8 cm. wide; side lobes rounded or oblong; mid-lobe reflexed, ovate, obtuse, margins undulate. Column arcuate, 0.9–1.3 cm. long, dilated in apical half, white; anther obliquely conical, ± purple.


habit: herb


HAB. In Brachystegia woodland; 870 m.

Woodland, grassland, grassland-scrub, Syzygium thicket and pine or Gmelina plantations


Malawi Zomba Distr., Thondwe Area, Mbala Estate, 1070 m, fl. 13.xi.1984 & st. 12.xii.1984, Pettersson 299 (K; MAL; UPS).

Zambia Mazabuka Distr., 64 km S of Lusaka, fl. 11.xi.1971 [1970?] & st. xii.1971, G. Williamson 2078 (K; SRGH).

Zambia 130 km E of Lusaka, fl. 4.xii.1974 & st. cult.? 22.i.1975, Williamson & Gassner 2332 (K).

Zimbabwe Mutare Distr., Burma Valley, left bank of Nyamakari R., Manyera Farm, 650 m, st. 19.i.1959, Chase 7157 (SRGH); Burma Valley, Manyera Farm, 650 m, fl. 30.xi.1964, Chase 8185 (K; SRGH).

Zambia 10 km N of Chipata, 1150 m, fl. 24.xi.1961, King 469 (BOL; SRGH).

Mozambique Near Serra Jeci, along road to lime quarry, st. 7.ii.1982, Pettersson 189 (LMU; UPS).

Tanzania 112 km. W. of Tunduru, 12 Dec. 1955, Milne-Redhead & Taylor 7864! (flowering specimen only)

Malawi Rumphi Distr., Nyika Approach, c. 5 km after turn-off to Thazima, 1500 m, st. 17.i.1987, I. & E. la Croix 938 (K).

Zimbabwe Harare Distr., Rumani, 1300 m, fl. xi.1946 & st. iii.1946, Greatrex 112 (K; PRE; SRGH).

Zambia near East Lumwana R., fl. & st. 22.x.1969, Williamson & Drummond 1639 (SRGH).

Zimbabwe c. 10.5 km from Gokwe on the road to Sare/Nemangwe, near Marope R., st. 24.ii.1964, Bingham 1147 (SRGH); Hurungwe Distr., near Kanyanga, tributary of Msukwe R., 900 m, fl. 18.xi.1952, Wild 4174 (K; MO; PRE; SRGH).


in Pl. Syst. & Evol. 134: 66 (1980).

in Pl. Syst. Evol. 134: 66, t. 7 (1980). —Saunders in Soc. Malawi J. 33, 2: 15 (1980). —Cribb in F.T.E.A., Orchidaceae: 275, [fig. 54 (7) as "N. purpurata"] (1984). —Pettersson in Lindleyana 4: 37 (1989); in Acta Univ. Ups., Comp. Sum. Upps. Diss. Fac. Sci. 281: 24 (1990); in Orchid Monogr. 5: 64 (1991). —la Croix et al., Orch. Malawi: 167, t. 108 (1991). TAB. 90. Type: Zimbabwe, Mutare Distr., Vumba Foothills below Richard's Homestead, Ball 585 (SRGH, holotype).

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
Found in
  • Africa East Tropical Africa Tanzania
  • South Tropical Africa Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe


  • 1 Govaerts, R. (2003). World Checklist of Monocotyledons Database in ACCESS: 1-71827. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

 Information From

Flora Zambesiaca
Flora Zambesiaca. Published on the Internet;
Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East 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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