At the end of winter, this flower transforms from a mouse into a beautiful bride

Rat tail runs don’t sound like what you’re looking for. The common name of this plant comes from its elongated cylindrical leaves. If you’re the type of person whose glass is half empty, it’s like a rat’s tail.

However, at the end of winter, rat tails are a total show stopper. It has shed its dowdy persona and is covered in tiny white flowers that look like fragrant stars, hence its other name, the Bridal Veil Orchid.

Bridal Veil Orchid or Rat’s Tail Orchid at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kennerly

It can be seen along streams, lakes and wetlands anywhere from Calliope north of Brisbane or south of Vega. Or, even easier, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.

The scientific name of the plant is Dockrillia teretifolium, in honor of Alick Dockrill, a self-taught amateur orchid botanist. Dockrill was born in Enmore, Inner West, Sydney in 1915 and fell in love with Australian orchids as a boy. Although he had no formal training, his dedication and close observation of the native orchid made him an authority. He literally wrote a book on Australian orchids, published ‘Australian Endemic Orchids’ in 1969 and revised in 1992. Dockrill died in 2011.

The botanical garden’s docklilia was wild-collected in 1959 by another local amateur Dutch scholar. An anonymous man from Concord donated the plant to the Botanic Gardens in 1988.


The slow-growing orchid, which has lived 62 years in captivity, is 1.5 meters long and hangs on an old fig tree in Port Jackson east of Palm House. The figs have reached the end of their life and are beginning to lose branches. The canopy opens, allowing more light into the orchids, improving flowering and allowing the orchids to be seen from below.

“The leaves are cylindrical and difficult to see, especially at high elevations, but the flowers are very vivid,” says Randy Sing, nursery supervisor at RBG. It is unusual for orchids to grow on ficus. In the wild, Casuarina because he prefers glauca as his home. “They like the same conditions,” Sing explains. “Both like growing around waterways and prefer high light levels and moisture away from water.”

RBG specimens have achieved dramatic results without the help of gardeners. “It would be nice to have fertilizer, but definitely not,” Singh says. Grown in cork, his RBG Glasshouse Bridal Veil Run is fertilized weekly in spring and summer and every other week in fall and winter. That’s how you get the best results from your home grown bridal veil run.

But if you don’t have the right position at home, visit the old beauty of the Botanical Gardens in the coming weeks. Just one.

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At the end of winter, this flower transforms from a mouse into a beautiful bride

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