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Species profile—Dendrobium phalaenopsis


Plantae (plants) → Equisetopsida (land plants) → OrchidaceaeDendrobium phalaenopsis

Species details

Plantae (plants)
Equisetopsida (land plants)
Scientific name
Dendrobium phalaenopsis Fitzg.
WildNet taxon ID
Superseded by
Dendrobium bigibbum (Cooktown orchid) (02/11/2018)
Alternate name(s)
Cooktown orchid
Back on Track (BoT) status
Conservation significant
Pest status
Dendrobium phalaenopsis is one of a group of Dendrobium species that are collectively known as the Cooktown orchid. It forms small to medium sized slender clumps on trees and rocks. Clumps consist of a number of erect, cylindrical stems which are slightly swollen in the middle with rounded bases. The stems are green or purplish and can reach a height of 1.2m and a width of 15mm. When the stems are young they are covered in papery bracts (very small scale-like leaves). There are 3-12 leaves on the upper part of the stem. Leaves are narrowly ovate, 5-15cm long by 0.5-3.5cm wide and dark green but often with purplish margins or heavily suffused with purple. The arching flower stems can reach 40cm and bear 2-20 flowers.
The flowers are pansy-like and usually lilac purple, although may sometimes be white, bluish or pinkish. The flowers of D. phalaenopsis vary greatly in width from 3-7cm wide, but are generally larger and less compact than those of D. bigibbum. The petals generally curve slightly backwards or not backwards at all. The petal that projects forwards is called the labellum and has three lobes. The two outer lobes curve upwards and overlap to form a column. The middle lobe is longer than in D. bigibbum, is projected forward, curves downward and has a spot with less prominent ridges covered by dense mauve hairs. (Barker 1997)
Dendrobium phalaenopsis grows on the branches of small trees in scrubby habitats, such as semi-deciduous vine forest and vine thickets, where fire cannot penetrate. It is abundant in patches of monsoon forest on stony soil which cannot support a dense grass cover. It is also found in beach scrubs with rainforest elements, gallery forest lining small streams, on rock faces, on mangroves and in heaths. (Barker 1997)
In very exposed habitats during the dry season, plants can become completely deciduous and rapidly produce new growth at the onset of the summer wet season. (Barker 1997)
Dendrobium phalaenopsis flowers from February to October, particularly in March through to August, with flowers lasting for two weeks. (Barker 1997)
Management documents
Conservation and management of protected plants in trade in Queensland 1995-1998. Department of Environment.
Contributors: Peter Bostock, Mellisa Mayhew 13/03/2009
Barker, M. (1997). Dendrobium bigibbum/D. phalaenopsis, in Species Management Manual. Department of Natural Resources, Brisbane.
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (2008). Vappodes phalaenopsis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. Accessed 30/09/2008.
Herbrecs (2008). Dendrobium phalaenopsis, in BriMapper version 2.12. Queensland Herbarium. Accessed 30/09/2008.
Profile author
Peter Bostock (13/03/2009)

Other resources

The Australasian Virtual Herbarium (AVH)
Atlas of Living Australia

Data source

This profile data is sourced from the QLD Wildlife Data API using the Get species by ID function used under CC-By 4.0

This information is sourced from the WildNet database managed by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science.

More species information

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
7 September 2021
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