Herbarium Digital Library


Category: Plants and Orchids
Date Posted: 2006-10-18

THAT LOVELY ASIATIC AND MALAYSIAN GENUS, Phalaenopsis, is represented in the Philippine Islands by approximately fifteen species and natural hybrids. The genus is one of the most important of those indigenous to the Archipelago. Two species, P.amabilis and P. Schilleriana, have found a prominent position among private collections throughout the world since their introduction as exotic species during the middle of the past century. The other species of the group may not be as well known abroad, but nevertheless include a number of interesting plants, which with the two .aforementioned form the nucleus of many orchid collections in the Philippines.

The genus first became known through a herbarium specimen of P.amabilis, which was sent by Osbec to Linnaeus in 1753. This specimen received the name Epidendrum amabilis but was later established by Blume, the Dutch botanist, to be representative of a new genus and therefore redesignated Phalaenopsis amabilis. The generic name is derived from the Greek phalaina, "a moth," and opsis, "appearance," because of the resemblance of the flowers of P. amabilis to tropical moths in flight through the forest.

The Phalaenopsis have short stems and are epiphytal herbs that attach themselves to the stems and branches of trees, generally in the shade and in the proximity of water. The sepals of the flowers are free and spreading and its petals similar or much broader and contracted at the base. The labellum of the'genus is in all species a complex structure, which, because of its variations, is difficult to generalize and.describe. In fact, it is because of these differences that it has been found convenient to divide the Philippine members of the group into three natural sections, EUPHALAENOPSIS, ZEBRINAE, and STAUROGLOTTIS. A lip with two characterizes the former

antennae-like appendages at the apex, which in some species are reduced to small teeth and in STAUROGLOTTIS by alip that is entire or notched with no tendril appendages. The section ZEBRINAE, represented by P. Lueddemanniana, is characterized by a middle lobe of the lip which is longer than wide, crested with hairs on the upper surface, and has barred petals and sepals. The characteristics of the first two sections are illustrated by the differences between the labellum of P.amabilis which belongs to the section EUPHALAENOPSIS and has long antennae and P.equestris which is of the sTAUROCLO'rrls section and has a pointed lip with no antennae.

P. Schilleriana is possibly the one member most typical of the Philippine species of the genus. This species is endemic to Luzon and has fleshy leaves eight to twelve inches long and three to four inches wide which are mottled green and graygreen on the upper side and purplish on the lower surface. It is a floriferous plant and during February, its flowering season, a mature specimen often produces more than one hundred and fifty pink-lavender flowers. Each flower is about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and grows on branched peduncles which attain a length of four feet. The flowering periods of the plants are confined to about six weeks' duration and individual blossoms last a week to ten days. P. Schilleriana is named in honor of Count Schiller of Hamburg in whose collection it first flowered away from its native habitat in 1860. The plants are collected from the large trees of the forests of southern Luzon, principally centered around Quezon (Tayabas) Province and the towns of Lucban and Tayabas.

Of course, the most important and probably the best known of the Phalaenopsis are the white ones, including P. amabilis and its variety P.amabilis var. aphrodite, which some authorities raise to species rank as P.aphrodite. In any case P.amabilis belongs to the section EUPHALAENOPSIS and is widely distributed throughout the islands of the Malaysian Archipelago and the Philippines. It has broad, bright-green fleshy leaves eight to fourteen inches long and three to five inches

wide. The flowers are white, three to four inches across the petals and have a narrow labellum with extremely long-curved tendrils. Within the center of the flower, the side lobes and base of the main lobe of the labellum are yellow with spots of red. Throughout the Philippines, some 'plants of this species can be seen flowering the year around; however, the main season is from about September through February. The plants of P. amabilis var. aphrodite (P.aphrodite) are similar to those just described, though the flowers differ in the general fact that they are smaller, from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches across, and have a wider middle lobe of the labellum than does the type P.amabilis.

P. amabilis is found in the southern islands of Mindanao and Palawan and it is from this latter island that the most desirable plants are collected. These often have flowers more than four inches across the petals, an extremely narrow labellum and are known throughout the islands as var. grandiflora. The specific name amabilis means "lovely."

P. amabilis var. aphrodite is distributed generally throughout the Islands and can be found in abundance in- the mountains of southern Luzon at elevations from sea level to about two thousand feet. It is also grown extensively throughout the Islands by the Filipinos as a decorative plant. As such it is usually attached to pieces of trees or coconut husks and allowed to hang under the eaves of their homes, where they flower in abundance. The first plants of P. anzabilis var, aphrodite to be sent abroad were collected by Cuming and left Manila in 1837 for England, where one plant flowered during the autumn of the same year. The varietal name aphrodite is another name for the mythological goddess Venus.

A third species, which comes from the southern island of Mindanao, can also be added to this group of related plants under P. anzabilis. This is the lovely P.amabilis var.Sanderiana or P.Sanderiana. The flowers of this plant are white suffused with pink, and the labellum has the same shape as that of P. arnabili.r. This plant was first collected in 1882 by Roebelin, a collector of Messrs. Sanders and Co., from the neighborhood of Davao, Mindanao, where he was collecting Vanda Sanderiana. It was at this location that the same collector also

discovered Aerides Lawrenciae which, with the previously mentioned species, comprises a triad of important plants of three different genera, growing associated with each other. The flowers of P. amabilis var. Sanderiana are from 2 1/2 to three inches in diameter. The upper sepals and outer petals are rose-pink, while the lower sepals are paler and mottled with white. The leaves of the plant are green with faint transverse blotches of marbled gray-green.

P. Stuartiana, the last member of the section EUPHALAENOPSIS indigenous to the Philippines, is a plant that has a foliage similar to P. Schilleriana with marbled blotches of gray-green and a purplish cast underneath. This plant is also prolific and produces flower spikes two to three feet long with as many as fifty white flowers spotted with red-purple. Each flower is about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches across; the petals are larger than the sepals. The lateral sepals have a dividing line; the outer half of which is white and the lower half pale yellowwhite, densely spotted with red-purple. The lip is three-lobed, the lateral two being yellow-spotted with red-purple, and an intermediate lobe, which is narrow at the base, suddenly enlarges into a broad blade terminated with two appendages in a manner similar to P. Schilleriana. This species was discovered by Boxall in 1881 near Surigao, which is located in the extreme northeast portion of Mindanao and is named as a compliment to Stuart Low for whose firm Boxall was collecting at that time. It is interesting to note that the mottled appearance in the leaves of this species often disappears with age.
P. equestris (P, rosea), which is one of the most common of the Philippine Phalaenopsis, belongs to the sub-genus srnuxocLOZ-I'is and does not have an appendage at the end of the labellum. This species was first introduced into Europe -in 1848 from Manila. One of its native habitats is in the foothill area a few miles east of Manila, where it is abundant in the hot valleys. It is also associated with P, amabilis in the low mountain forests to about fifteen hundred feet elevation. The leaves of the species are a shiny green about four to six inches long with a pronounced apical notch and a pointed tip with no purplish coloration on the reverse side; a characteristic which assists to distinguish unflowered plants from plants of P.amabilis with which they are so often confused when received from the forest. The flowers of P. equestris are small, from one to 1 1/2 inches across. These develop on a stem, about eight to fifteen inches long, over a period of six to eight months. Therefore, the plant is often in flower throughout the year, although it is most profuse from February through May. The sepals and petals of the flower are broad, pointed, and white with rose-purple stain in the middle. The labellum is three-lobed; the lateral two, being incurved and pink, while the intermediate lobe is ovate, without appendages, brown at the base and bright rose-purple at the end. The specific name equestris refers to knightly or very handsome.

Another small flowered species and one which flowers over a long period is P. Lindenii. This plant, also a member of the section STAUROGLOT"TIS, is native to the mountainous area of Benguet Sub-province, Mountain Province, Luzon, at an elevation of four to six thousand feet. This small plant has mottled leaves similar to P. Schilleriana with the exception that they are narrower. The flowers which appear from March to August are produced on long racemes similar to P.equestris and are about the same size; one to 1 1/2 inches across. The pink sepals and petals are similar and rather narrow, while the side lobes of the three-lobed labellum are spotted red-brown. The middle lobe is narrow at the base but broadens toward the apex and has dark vertical purple lines set upon a rose pink background. The column is prominent, roundish and has a beaked anther. This species was dedicated to M. J. Linden, a French horticulturist. There has been some question in the past as to whether P.Lindenii is a true species or a natural hybiid between P.equestris and P. Schilleriana because of its mottled leaves similar to the latter and habits similar to P. equestris; however, now it is agreed that it is an individuai species, a decision substantiated by the lack of apical appendages on the labellum of the species and the fact that its natural habitat is an area in which P. Schilleriana does not occur.

P. Lueddemanniana of the section ZEBRINAE is an extremely variable species as far as the color and size of flower is concerned. As a consequence some confusion has resulted regarding forms which were at one time regarded as distinct species. Such is the case with P. Boxallii which now appears to be accepted by some authorities as a yellowish form of the type. The leaves of P. Lueddemannian2 are a shiny pale green about four to six inches long and 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches wide. The flower spikes are short, two to six inches long, unbranched and few-flowered (two to five flowers). Sepals and petals are similar and spreading, so that the flower is about two to 2 1/2 inches across the petals and the background color is white to yellowish, marked with transverse bars of light purple. The labellum is three-lobed and fleshy; the middle lobe appearing white or pale purple with a greenish tip and innumerable hairs along its length. Its flowering habit is to open one at a time and each flower lasts for about two weeks. The plant flowers from November through February and often up to July. This species was dedicated to Lueddemann, an orchidist, who resided in Paris during the late years of the last century.

There are also two other members of the sub-genus ZEBRINAE, indigenous to the Philippines. These are P.Mariaend P.Micholitzii, neither of which is often encountered in collections in the islands. P. Mariae is a plant which resembles P. Lueddemanniana, but has flowers about one to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

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