Habitat & Environment
Epiphytic & CAM Plants
Wild Plants & Species

Habitat and Environment

 The genus name "Phalaenopsis," referring to one of the most popular varieties of orchids, is derived from the two Latin words Phalaena and Opsis, which respectively mean "moth" and "resemblance." However, many flowers of the Phalaenopsis species and its hybrids have beautiful colors and shapes that are more like a butterfly than a moth, and, thus, a more fitting name might be "Papiliopsis."

 The Genus Phalaenopsis habitat is widely distributed across Southeast Asia and includes South India, Sri Lanka, southern China to Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and northern Australia. It has been identified as having 47 species(Sweet 1980) and 62 species (Christenson 2001, as described hereinafter). The latter classification includes braceana, minus, haiananensisi, honghenensis in the Aphyllae subgenus, and bellina and doweryensis in the Polychilos subgenus. The Phalaenopsis is banned from international trade by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) Appendix II, except for flask seedlings or propagated plants.

1. Distribution of Phalaenopsis Species

 Though Phalaenopsis is belived to be a tropical plant, due to its wide distribution throughout Southeast Asia, it has survived being acclimated to various environments. Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia (part of Java and the Sulawesi islands) have rainy and dry seasons every 5-6 months due to the tropical monsoon climate, and the tropical seasonal forest (called tropical seasonal evergreen or rain forest) with 1,500 - 2,000 mm mean annual precipitation covers the land. The open forest is dominant in these areas, and the trees are shorter in height than those of the tropical rainforest, so the sunlight reaches the shrubs, ferns, and treelets through the canopy. This encourages lush growth of the vegetation. Some Phalaenopsis of the subgenus polychilos inhabit this area. The northern limit of this climate is southward of Yunnan in China, and the southern limit is Queensland in northeast Australia.

  In the southwest of China, which features mountainous terrain more than 1,000 - 1,500 meters high, a wide range of climates from subtropical to sub-frigid is distributed in a very narrow area that varies geographically. This area includes deciduous forests consisting of tall trees that are unable to use capilary action to extract water from the soil and move it to the tree tops in the dry season.This region also has places with subzero winters. Yunnan Province, where the Phalaenopsis species of Aphyliae has its habitat, has an average temperature no more than 19-22C in summer. This low temperature is due to many rainy days (1,100mm) that shade the solar heat from May to October. Meanwhile, in winter, which has many sunny days with thin and dry air, the average temperature is 6 - 8C even in the coldest months. Thus, the difference in the seasonal temperature is 10 - 15C. The feature in this area is a significant difference in the daily temperature of 12 - 20C, with cool temperatures in the morning and hot temperatures at noon in spring/winter. Due to this native habitat, the Aphyliae species (P. wilsonii, P. hainanensis, P. honghenensis) under cultivation need to be kept at a temperature around 10C for a few months in order to stimulate inflorescence growth.

 Peninsular Malaysia, Peninsular Sumatra, and Borneo island have three different types of rainforest corresponding to the altitude; tropical rainforest (< 1,000 meters), tropical mountain forest (1,000 - 2,000 meters) and cloud /mist forest (1,000 - 3,000 meters). The rainforest consists of broad-leaved evergreen trees and has an annual mean rainfall of over 2,000 mm. The average daytime temperature is 30C and rarely exceeds 32C in the low lands of the laurel forest. The air temperature drops by roughly 0.6C for every 100-meter increase in altitude. It is estimated that 10,000 species of vascular plants are growing in an area of only 50 hectares (Lambir Hills Sarawak).

 The Crocker Range, stretching from Mt. Kinabalu in Sabah state to the state line of Sarawak on Borneo island, is dominated by densely- forested mountains and open- forest along the rivers. This range is known as a botanical treasure house and is protected as a national park to preserve the wildlife inhibiting the 139,919 hectares between Ranau and Padal Gorge. It is the habitat for various orchid species including Phalaenopsis. Sabah state still has remote places where no one has ventured, and there might be more Phalaenopsis species or varieties to be discovered in these areas.

 Most intertropical forests can be divided into five groups from the seacoast to the mountain range: mangrove and nipa in the coastal regions, freshwater swamp forest, dipterocarp forest, heath forest, and mountain forest. The soil of the freshwater swamp forest has two distinct structures - one which grows on alluvial soils (e.g., east Sabah), and the other which has developed on a thick layer of acidic, semi-decayed plant material, known as peaty marsh (e.g., Sarawak, southern half of Peninsular Malaysia). The latter forest has no nutrient cycling by inflow. The tree heights in the former and latter forests are 20 - 30 meters and 10-20 meters, respectively.

2. Tropical Rainforest

 In the midland, heath or kerangas forests may be found in a small area consisting of acidic sandy soil with a thin deposition of organic material on the area's siliceous parent rocks . The soil is extremely deficient in nutrients, so plants cannot grow very large. The plants in this forest have evolved special characteristics to cope with these conditions, -i.e., mutually beneficial associations with ants or carnivorous structures, - in order to survive without requiring nutrients from soil and fungi. The plants obtain nitrogen and phosphorus from the waste products of ants or by digesting insects. Pitcher plants are often seen in the heath forest, e.g., at Nabawan in Borneo. There is no indication that any type of Phalaenopsis species has been found in this forest. In the inland hill ranges from sea level to 900 meters, the dipterocarp (meaning "two-winged fruit) forest dominates the vegetation. The soil in this range is not very fertile, and the trees have buttress roots to support the massive crown above. This deficient soil is produced because the speed of decomposition of the organic material is much faster than the deposition of new material by defoliation in the hot-humid environment.

 Despite the nonnutritious soil, many big trees dominate the vegetation in this range. This is due to the association with fungi living in the roots of trees. The trees produce a carbohydrate substance through photosynthesis and send it to the roots, while the fungi decompose this substance into inorganic components such as nitrogen and phosphorus, two essential nutrients of vegetation. This shows how the vegetative prosperity in the rainforest is maintained through the symbiotic relationship with fungi. Many Phalaenopsis species - those of subgenera Phalaenopsis and Polychilos - inhabit the low-land open-rainforest, which is consistently warm and moist throughout the year.

 A tropical rainforest is divided into four to five layers in accordance with the vertical stratification: emergent, canopy, understory and forest floor. The emergent layer contains a small number of very tall trees towering as high as 50 - 70 meters above the forest floor. Most of these trees are broad-leaved, hardwood evergreens and receive plentiful sunlight. The Tualang tree, or Koompassia excelsa, (also called Tapang in Sarawak and Mengaris in Sabah) is one such tree, and is well known for its white bark and ramrod-straight trunk that is without branches for the first 40 meters above the ground. There is no record of any Phalaenopsis species ever growing in this layer.

  The canopy layer contains very large trees, typically 30 - 45 meters tall, which is the primary life sustaining layer providing an abundance of food for many living creatures. It consists of thick layering branches and leaves that form a roof over the two remaining layers. Due to the blowing wind, the canopy layer is cooler than the steamy forest floor and provides homes for many insects and animals (e.g., bees, butterflies, frogs, flying dragons, birds, monkeys). Epiphytic plants such as orchids, bromeliads, cacti and ferns attach themselves to the trunks and branches in this space.

 Despite the rainy forest, this layer is exposed to dry conditions for several months during the season that receives a small amount of rainfall. This is because the transpiration from the forest is much larger than the amount of rainfall. Some Phalaenopsis species - Phal. pantherina, Phal. gigantea, and Phal. bellina - grow in this layer. The leaves of these Phalaenopsis species are commonly thick and have a waxy cuticular layer to minimize moisture loss through stomatal transpiration. The leaf structure of Phalaenopsis species in the canopy layer differs from those of the Phal. fimbrata, and Phal. inscriptiosinensis species, which have thin leaves and make their habitat in the open forest at the riverside or in swamps.

 The leaf morphology evolves through the habitat environment. It could be surmised that species with thick and waxy leaves grow in arid environments, while species with thin leaves grow in humid environments throughout the year. Therefore, leaves also give us useful information for cultivation.

River and Bog of Borneo Island © Bent Christensen

 The understory layer is below the canopy layer and receives little sunshine, so the plants have to grow an average 2 - 3 meters in height with larger leaves to catch the maximum sunlight. Many nocturnal insects and animals - tree frogs, bats, owls - live in this layer. It is well known for the strangling ficus species. A strangler fig usually begins its life as a tiny sprout growing from a seed deposited on a tree branch in the canopy. This sprout drops a long root from the branch to the forest floor. When the root reaches the ground, the sprout begins to send other roots down around the host tree, entwining it in a cascading net. As these roots harden and thicken, they begin to grow together to form a trunk, as shown in the second left picture below. The fig completely surrounds the host tree. As the strangler grows and begins to press the trunks, the host tree is finally squeezed so tight that its vascular system collapses, and it can no longer exract water and nutrients from the soil into its upper branches. The host tree has been strangled and long since died. The understory layer is also called a shrub layer. Only about 5% of the sunlight reaches the understory, which makes it a difficult place for Phalaenopsis species to survive.

 The forest floor is the ground layer, which has almost 100% humidity. Since only 2% of sunlight reaches the forest floor, it is very dark, and almost no plants grow in this layer. Although there are some low growth plants that receive the brief spots of sunlight that penetrate the canopy, these are not the predominant vegetation. Moss, ferns, and fungi grow prosperously in this area. Unlike the dense monsoon forest, the floor in the tropical rainforest has very few plants. No Phalaenopsis species are found in this layer.

Wild Tree Forms in Tropical Rainforest  © Bent Christensen

 Meanwhile, the rain (at 0 - 1,000m) and cloud (at 1,000 - 3,000) forests have high humidity, which encourages the adaptation of epiphytic plants. Borneo Island is a home for 1,500 - 2,000 species of wild orchids out of the 4,000 species in South East Asia. Among them, 1,200 species are concentrated in Sabah state, and over 700 (711) make their habitats in the surroundings of Mt. Kinabalu. Ten percent of them are endemic.

Cloud Forest in Borneo Island © Bent Christensen

 The primary reason for such dense growth of orchid species around Mt. Kinabalu is the incredible altitude and environmental range within a very short distance. Mt. Kinabalu at 4,095 meters high contains rainforest, mist forest, and as well as the upper limit of vegetation habitat, which is similar to the environment in Yunnan, China.

 The tropical mountain forest of evergreen trees around 1,000 meters above sea level is less dense and much cooler than the lowland rainforest. It is bright, receiving the sunlight transmitted through the foliage of the canopy, but the irradiation of direct sunlight does not stay long. Broad-leaved trees, e.g. Fagaceae, Camphor, and Camellia trees make up the crown canopy.

 At higher altitudes (2,000 meters), the tropical mountain changes to the mist forest, which is usally wrapped in fog in the afternoon. The highly humid atmosphere results in a temperature drop of 0.6C every 100 meters, so the temperature is often less than 20C in this forest. The mist forest consists of relatively low trees with large aerial plants on the trunks, and various species of hepatica covering the ground and the tree bark.

 Many parts of Borneo Island are covered by lowland tropical forests. The heavy rainfall occurs from November to December on the West coast of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah state, in April and from October to November in the center of the island, and from November to January at Kuching in Sarawak state. The period of low rainfall is during June and July in Kota Kinabalu and from January to Februay, and again in June at Kuching. The temperature and humidity stay fairly constant from 23C - 33C and 70% - 90% throughout the year. Thus, observing the island as a whole, there is no region that experiences a sharp contrast between dry and rainy seasons. Considering that the flowering season usually comes when the climate changes from hot to cool and vice versa, the period to see relatively plentiful flowers would be from June to August in Borneo (February to March in the Philippines; March to April in Java).

 The environment in the tropical rainforest has been maintained due to the balance between the heavy rainfall and the evaporation from the forests. For a six-month period in 1982 and 1983, the rainfall decreased substantially, which disrupted this balance; as the result, massive wildfires occurred which devastated the forests in Sabah and East Kalimantan. This was due to dense natural vegetation in the tropical rainforest.

 Once the forest had burned down, it took a few decades to regenerate itself. Wildfires do irreversible damage, particularly in kerangas forests on sandy soil. However, this type of abnormal climate has only been experienced once in the last 20 - 30 years.

 In the tropical rainforest, the majority of Phalaenopsis species - except, e.g., P. tetraspis, P. fuscata, and P. cochlearis - inhabit the bright open-forest, where the sunlight dapples the tree trunks and branches through the canopy; they also grow in riparian zones or swamps, where a high level of humidity is provided regardless of climate throughout the year.


Epiphytic and CAM plants

 Genus Phalaenopsis is an epiphytic plant with roots that run on tree trunks and branches. It is different from parasitic plants in that genus Phalaenopsis does not drain the mother plant of nutrients. Epiphytic orchids have a symbiotic relationship with one type of fungi and form orchid mycorrhiza in the root cells. The orchid provides the fungi with sugars produced by photosynthesis, while the fungi give the orchid the nitrogen compounds (mainly nitrogen and phosphorus) produced when the sugars are broken down by the fungal enzymes. The orchid produces the organic substance (carbohydrates and vitamins) by itself through photosynthesis, which is the difference between it and parasitic plants.

 Most Phalaenopsis species grow on trees, but P. sumatrana, P. lowii, P. cornu-cervi, P. cochlearis and some species in Aphyllae subgenus have been observed on mossy limestone. Some Australian populations of P. amabilis grow on the ground. The common characteristic of epiphytic plants is that their roots must be exposed to air. If the root is placed in a flooded condition without airflow, it may decompose, with the result that it dies sooner than normal.

 Epiphytic plants attached to trees are continually exposed to the extreme stress of moisture deficiency during seasons that are dry or receive little rain. If the plant performs photosynthesis by opening the stomata during the daytime when the temperature is high and humidity is low, it might suffer serious damage through moisture evaporation from its leaves, resulting in a further loss of water. To avoid this metabolism, it opens the stomata during the cooler and more humid night-time hours, permitting the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) with minimal water loss. The CO2 is converted into malate and stored in the cytoplasmic vacuoles of individual cells in the leaves. In the daytime, the stored malate is reduced to CO2, which further releases the oxygen and produces the sugars in the process of photosynthesis by sunlight and chloroplasts.

 Plants that carry out the above photosynthesis process are called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) plants. Some genus orchids that are CAM plants are Phalaenopsis, Cattleya, Laelia and Vanda, while Paphopedilum, Lycaste, and Cymbidium are in the families of C3 plants, which carry out photosynthesis involving the simultaneous process of absorption of CO2 and release of oxygen in the daytime. Against this background, the Phalaenopsis genus can be considered to be the most evolutionarily advanced plant that developed the characteristics to survive in dry environments receiving little or irregular rainfall.

 Although Phalaenopsis species have adapted the CAM mechanism to absorb CO2 at night in order to prevent water loss, many Phalaenopsis species inhabit areas around riversides that have high humidity throughout the year, making it unnecessary to absorb CO2 at night. The leaves of species existing in these areas are not very thick but have a thin cuticular layer. From this point of view, it is difficult to find a single reason that accounts for the evolutionary CAM history.

Distance View of Pride of the Morning in Borneo Island © Bent Christensen

 For this question, there is another explanation - if all of the vegetation in high density forests carried out photosynthesis simultaneously, there would be insufficient CO2. To prevent this competition in habitats with a limited space, some plants contain a mechanism to absorb CO2 at night. Thus, it could be presumed that the Phalaenopsis species - as one of the plants reaching the highest state of development - found their habitats on trees in order to avoid the battle of existence on the ground and evolved into CAM organisms for survival. The Phalaenopsis species in harsh environments became acclimatized to the conditions by developing thick leaves, while the species inhabiting areas with high humidity developed thin leaves. The leaf morphology tells us the evolving history of epiphytic plants. As described above, the Phalaenopsis genus grows in a wide range of environments, which are divided into three groups as follows:

  1. Cool and cold seasons (air temperature as low as 10C in winter): plants with a few small deciduous leaves and many long chlorophyll roots.
  2. Tropical monsoon forest with both rainy and dry seasons: plants with succulent leaves and thick roots, and plants with a dormancy period.
  3. Tropical rainforest with hot temperatures and high humidity: 80% of Phalaenopsis species exist in this environment.

 Past studies on the cultivation of Phalaenopsis hybrids have found that they have a high level of absorption of CO2 at 20C under high humidity at night, and that photosynthesis is mostly activated at 30C in the daytime, while these plants could not survive under extended periods at temperatures higher than 25C at night and 35C in the daytime. Although the native species may be different in morphology from the hybrids, the data indicate the commonly adaptable condition for Phalaenopsis cultivation. Against this background, the favorable cultivation environment for Phalaenopsis species is thought to be that indicated in Table 1. The species inhabiting the environment indicated in catetory 1 above must be 10C lower than that listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Recommended Conditions
Night time

 Because of the successful growth and aseptic culture of more than 55 kinds of Phalaenopsis species, people often ask what the most important factor is in the cultivation of Phalaenopsis species if one thing could be named. I answer without hesitation that it is high humidity at night. The appropriate controls of temperature, watering and fertilization are, of course, essential for cultivation, but the high humidity during the night visibly stimulates activity in the leaves and roots. It might be the natural characteristic for the Phalaenopsis species as CAM plants.

 Even though the habitats are in the same region, the morphology of Phalaenopsis species alters according to the local geography. The epiphytic positions at the canopy in the rainforest and at the understory in the open-forest at the riverside or swamps have quite different environments. The former position is a well-lighted area that gets a good dose of sunlight but is exposed to dry air, while the latter position is surrounded by damp air. The difference in leaf forms - size, thickness, glossiness - in these positions, even at the same map location, shows the results of adapting to life in every type of habitat (forest structure and layer). This indicates to growers that it is not appropriate to keep species with different leaf forms under the same environmental conditions ( temperature, humidity, lighting, and watering).

 P. gigantea - the largest Phalaenopsis species - is often observed in the canopy layer more than 30 meters high. P. gigantea has the biggest leaves of succulent plants, with a well-developed cuticular layer that grows in brightly lit places. It is exposed to substantial differences in air, with both dry and wet air. If this species was cultivated under 70% light shielding, as within the general guidelines of Phalaenopsis species, the quantity of light would be insufficient, and it would not come into flower. From the viewpoint of epiphytic position, it needs the same amount of light as a Cattleya. This means that the cultivation must be carried out flexibly observing the morphology - size, thickness, firmness, glossiness of leaves, shape, and diameter of roots - as important and practical information.

 As described above, each Phalaenopsis species has its own unique habitat that is critical to survival - temperature, humidity, amount of light - which means they could not be placed in one and the same environment under identical conditions. This is not only true for Phalaenopsis species but for all of the orchid genera, e.g., Paph. rothschildianum and Paph. micranthum could never grow in the same region. Table 2 lists the ecology in Phalaenopsis species. Some species are able to grow either as epiphytes or lithophytes, and a few grow as terrestrial.

Table 2. Phalaenopsis Species
amabilis, aphrodite, braceana, celebensis, chibae, cochlearis, corningiana, cornu-cervi, deliciosa, doweryensis,
equestris, fasciata, fimbriata, floresensis, fuscata, gibbosa, gigantea, hainanensis, hieroglyphica, honghenensis,
inscriptiosinensis, javanica, kunstleri, lindenii, lobbii, lowii, lueddemanniana, maculata, mannii, mariae, micholitzii,
minus, modesta, pallens, pantherina, parishii, philippinensis, pulchra, reichenbachiana, sanderiana, schilleriana,
speciosa, stobartiana, stuartiana, sumatrana, tetraspis, venosa, violacea, viridis, wilsonii
cochlearis, corningiana, cornu-cervi, lowii, luteola, maculata, sumatrana, tetraspis, wilsonii



 It is well known that the general flowering (GF) of the synchronized anthesis in the lowland dipterocarpa rainforest of Asia takes place on around a five-year cycle. There are several theories for why this mysterious phenomenon occurs in tropical biology. The first is based on predator satiation (seed survival by the population sizes of seed predators); the second is on anemochory (high success rate of wind-pollination), and the third on cross-pollination (to avoid incompatible pollination of autogamy). Meanwhile, there are two hypotheses about what triggers the GF: aridity and low temperature. It is apparently thought that the rainforest maintains high humidity all through the year due to the enormous amount of rainfall, but during the low rainfall season, the transpiration from the forest is much larger than the amount of rainfall. This phenomenon causes a dry atmosphere, especially in the canopy layer. By observing the average temperature in the rainforest region, we find that a high temperature over 25C is maintained year around. However, the aridity in the canopy layer induces radiational cooling with temperatures below 20C. This nocturnal radiation might be a trigger for the GF. On Borneo island, the GF that took place seven-month period beginning in March in 1996 is thought to be the result of the low temperature, which was below 20C for a week in March.

 The Phalaenopsis species in the rainforest are not the kind of vegetation that exhibits characteristics of GF, and they flower once or twice a year. About 15-20% of the vegetation goes through a seasonal flowering, and some of them have flowers in Aug.-Sept. in Borneo. However, the trigger of such flowering, including for the Phalaenopsis species, is also thought to be an appropriate level of dry and cool conditions every year. Through the cultivation of P. violacea and P. bellina, it is observed that a daily difference in temperature of around 10C might be the necessary condition to induce the inflorescence.


Species and Wild Plants

 The diminutive distinction between species and wild plants is that a "species" denotes the original plant that is used for horticultural hybrid breeds, while a "wild plant" is broadly interpreted as a wild progenitor, including natural hybrids, which maintain natural pollination without artificial control or a unique biology. This site does not closely define this type of difference in species and wild plants, but assumes those - jungle plants, plants of autogamy, sibling crosses in geographical exclusion, mutant species in natural sibling crosses such as flava, alba, and aurea - as "native species". In contrast, this site refers to plants as "hybrids" or "improved seed"in cross-breeds of interregional or different species. Thus, it is not a scholarly classification.

The features of original species might be based on their individuality, nativeness, propriety, and geographical signature. Hobbyists who prefer the native species may be fascinated with their appearances. This site does not address the artificial hybrids nor the plants that are cross-breeds with interregional varieties, except for a few. Recently, commercially available plants, e.g., P. violacea, have been aggressively crossed with selected ones or plants of geographical varieties, e.g. Sumatra, Mentawai and Borneo (P. bellina) in order to obtain a showy flower with dark blue or red colors. Although P. bellina and P. violacea have a close relationship, these two species have morphological differences in their flowers, leaves and floral fragrances. Thus, the seedling produced by the cross-breeding between P. violacea and P. bellina is not a native species.

 Similarly, P. amabilis, with large tepals displayed on shelves in garden centers, are improved plants artificially created by the cross-breeding of selected species. Many garden species are hybrids which have heterogenous mixture, so they cannot inherit the unique genetic traits of their parents but appear in various colors and shapes in their seedlings.

 Autogamy or cross-pollination in the same species based on the breeding of genetically homogenous characteristics reproduces seedlings that inherit the same characteristics of the parent species, which differ from those that are crossbred with hybrids. The grower, however, may expect a seedling with an uncommon characteristic in its color or pattern, for example, a mutation such as alba or aurea, although the probability of this is like winning the lottery. In the practical breeding by autogamy, it is said that the Phalaenopsis species does not have resistant properties of germination. However, seeds without a hypocotyl have often been found when autogamy occurs between alba varieties. This suggests that some species have a self-imcompatibility or weak consititution.

Phalaenopsis native species



 The genus Phalaenopsis is comprised of over 50 species, and over 20 related genera can be hybridized. Thus, it is possible to reproduce a tremendous number of new hybrids and cross-breeds between species and genera. Many hobbyists throughout the world may be interested in experimenting with a new type of Phalaenopsis hybrid. The propagation cycle from seed to BS (Blooming Size) plant takes 3-4 years and is easier to breed than with the Paphiopedilum genus, which takes at least 7-8 years. Although the probability to obtain a more beautiful or unique flower than the parent might be very low, it is possible to develop hundreds or thousands of seedlings by aseptic culture or mericlone propagation, and it may lead to developing a hybrid that is the only one of its kind in the world.

 The native or wild species has an important role in cross-breeding to increase the odds of reproducing preferable features in terms of color, size, longevity of flowering, or strong inflorescence. The probability to duplicate a feature is much higher than with cross-breeding between hybrids due to the homogenous genes of native species. From this view-point, it could be said that familiarity with the morphology of native species is essential for the breeder when seeking new types of seedlings.

  E.A. Christenson in his book "Phalaenopsis: a Monograph " points out the differences in species from the hybrids as follows:

  1. slower growth and seasonal aspect to the growth
  2. brighter light level
  3. medium temperature (high temperature in hybrid cultivation)
  4. seasonally modified fertilizer

 The above characteristics are remarkable in the species that inhabit the seasonal tropical rainforest. Meanwhile, each species is observed to have a different pattern of growth in aseptic culture, which indicates that each may have its own appropriate nutrient components. Many Phalaenopsis species in cultivation have leaf sizes shorter than those of wild plants, and the leaves tend to have a rounded shape. Comparing the nutrient intake between cultivation and nature, the wild plants have survived under minimal nourishment, but they grow bigger than the cultivars. The wild plants must have bigger leaves in order to produce sufficient nourishment by photosynthesis under the harsh environments. On the contrary, the cultivars do not need to have big leaves due to having a steady supply of fertilizer and water. In 2002 at the Tokyo Dome Orchid Show, P. bellina from jungle was sold by the Malaysian Tourist Agency. They had leaves over 40 cm, like that of P. gigantea. Never had such big leaves been seen on P. bellina in cultivation.

Phalaenopsis Hybrids


Classification and Etymology

 Table 3 lists the classifications (white characters) of genus Phalaenopsis by Christenson (2001). This table does not cover the esmeralda section in the subgenus Phalaenopsis. The species - P. lamelligera, P. violacea f. mentawai, P. delicata, and P. zebrina which are not regarded as independent species in the current classification - are added separately in Table 3 shown in orange.

 The habitat of the subgenus is distributed as shown in the map of Table 3, and the subgenus with four pollinia - proboscidioides、aphyllae、parishianae - inhabit southern China, India and Indochina, while two pollinia subspecies - polychilos、and Phalaenopsis - inhabit Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

 There is some doubt in the species classification in Table 3 as to why the sections deliciosae and esmeralda of four pollinia are classified into the subgenus Phalaenopsis, which includes two pollinia. Rather, the deliciosae and the esmeralda should be classified as independent subgenera, the same as proboscidioides、aphyllae and parishianae. Furthermore, some experts have suggested that the species - P. giganteaP. maculata and P. doweryensis which have similar lip structures, - and the lueddemanniana complex - P. bastianiiP. fasciataP. hieroglyphicaP. lueddemannianaP. mariaeP. pallensP. pulchra andP. reichenbachiana - should be separated from the amboinensis section.

Table 3.Phalaenopsis Classifications

Species denoted by
orange are newly

polychilos amboinenses







  Table 4 shows the desinence, or endings, that are often attached to the names of Phalaenopsis species, as well as their meanings.

Table 4. Etymology
-ana, -nii
name of person
-sis, -ensis



 Table 5 lists the habitats by country. The subgenera Aphyllae are distributed in southern China, the parishianae in India and northern Vietnam, and the proboscidioides in Myanmar and Thailand. The subgenus Polychilos mainly inhabits the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia except for a few species in northeastern India. The subgenus Phalaenopsis is centered in the Philippines and two species - P. aphrodite and P. equestris - in Taiwan. P. amabilis is widely distributed from the Philippines, and Indonesia to Australia.

Table 5. Habitats by Country
Australia amabilis
China braceana, hainanensis, honghenensis, mannii, stobartiana,, wilsonii
India deliciosa, lobbii, mannii, speciosa, tetraspis
Indonesia amabilis, amboinensis, bellina, celebensis, cornu-cervi, fimbriata, floresensis, fuscata, gigantea, inscriptiosinensis, javanica, mariae, modesta, pantherina, sumatrana, tetraspis, venosa, violacea, mentawai, viridis, zebrina
Laos gibbosa, lowii, mannii
Malaysia appendiculata, bellina, borneensis, cochlearis, corningiana, cornu-cervi, fimbriata, gigantea, kunstleri, lamelligera, lowii, maculata, mariae, modesta, pantherina, violacea
Myanmar cornu-cervi, kunstleri, lobbii, lowii, mannii
Philippines amabilis, aprodite, bastianii, cornu-cervi, delicata, deliciosa, equestris, fasciata, fuscata, hieroglyphica, lindenii, lueddemanniana, mariae, micholitzii, pallens, philippinensis, pulchra, reichenbachiana, sanderiana, schilleriana, stuartiana, zebrina
Thailand cornu-cervi, deliciosa, fuscata, lowii, minus, parishii, thalebanii
Taiwan aprodite, equestris
Vietnam chiabe, deliciosa, gibbosa, lobbii, mannii