Cymbidium suave

Snake Orchid or Grassy Boat-lip Orchid

Family: Orchidaceae

Cymbidium suave is a leafy clumping orchid which sometimes resembles a Lomandra. It is usually seen growing in eucalypt trees as an epiphyte.

It grows to about 0.5 m tall by 0.5 m or more wide and has attractive yellow flowers in spring and summer.

The leaves are green and linear, to 60 cm long and 2 cm wide, leathery and slightly V-shaped in cross section.

The yellow flowers are produced in showy inflorescences to about 30 cm long, with up to 50 flowers. The inflorescences tend to arch over or be pendulous. Flowers are about 3 cm x 3 cm.

It typically grows in woodland and forest in the hollows of old trees or in fallen, decaying trees. It tends to look like Lomandra longifolia from a distance. It has a large geographic range, occurring between Cooktown in Queensland to Bega in New South Wales and as far inland as Tamworth.

In the garden

The scented flowers attract bees and other insects.

It is best grown in pots with a good grade of orchid mix, in dappled light and not direct afternoon sun. Do not let dry out for any length of time. Retain an evenly semi moist mix.


From seed as they resent division as they have no pseudobulbs. This species is known to release thousands of brown tiny seeds which float around as fine dust every year.

Other information

Fire response is unknown. It likely regenerates from seed eventually.

Cymbidium suave was first formally described in 1810 by Robert Brown who published the description in Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae et Insulae Van Diemen.

Cymbidium – Cymba; Latin for boat, from Ancient Greek kymbē.
dium diminutive meaning “little” – referring to the labellum (modified petal) on the flowers resembling a little boat.
suave – Latin meaning “sweet”.

Not considered at risk the wild.


By Jeff Howes