Phalaenopsis /ˌfælɪˈnɒpsɪs/ Blume (1825), commonly known as moth orchids,[2] is a genus of about seventy species of plants in the family Orchidaceae. Orchids in this genus are monopodial epiphytes or lithophytes with long, coarse roots, short, leafy stems and long-lasting, flat flowers arranged in a flowering stem that often branches near the end. Orchids in this genus are native to India, Taiwan, China, Southeast Asia, New Guinea and Australia with the majority in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Moth orchids
Phalaenopsis amabilis Orchi 03.jpg
Phalaenopsis amabilis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Vandeae
Subtribe: Aeridinae
Genus: Phalaenopsis
Type species
Phalaenopsis amabilis
Blume (1825)


Orchids in the genus Phalaenopsis are monopodial epiphytic, sometimes lithophytic herbs with long, coarse roots and short leafy stems hidden by overlapping leaf bases. The leaves are usually arranged in two rows, relatively large and leathery, oblong to elliptic and sometimes succulent. A few to many, small to large, long-lasting, flat, often fragrant flowers are arranged on erect to hanging racemes or panicles. The sepals and petals are free from and spread widely apart from each other. The lateral sepals are usually larger than the dorsal sepal and the petals much wider than the sepals. The labellum is joined stiffly to the column and has three lobes. The side lobes are erect and more or less parallel to each other and the middle lobe sometimes has a pair of appendages or antennae.[2][3][4][5][6]

Taxonomy and namingEdit

The genus Phalaenopsis was first formally described in 1825 by Carl Ludwig Blume and the description was published in Bijdragen tot de flora van Nederlandsch Indië.[1][7] The name Phalaenopsis is derived from the Ancient Greek word φαλαινα (phalaina) meaning 'a kind of moth'[8]: 535  with the suffix -opsis meaning 'having the appearance of' or 'like'.[8]: 483 [9]

The genus name is abbreviated Phal. horticulturally.[10]


The former genus Ornithochilus was merged with Phalaenopsis and is considered by some to be a subgenus. Its members have distinctly 4-lobed, fringed labella with a short, curved spur situated near the middle of the lip as opposed to the base. Ornithochilus formerly had three known species, native to China, the Himalayas and Southeast Asia:[11][12]


Species of Phalaenopsis are found from India to southern China, Indochina, Malaysia and from Indonesia to the Philippines and New Guinea. There is a single species endemic to Queensland. The greatest diversity of phalaenopsis occurs in Indonesia and the Philippines.


The following is a list of Phalaenopsis species accepted by the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families as at January 2019:

Image Name Distribution Elevation in metres (m)
  Phalaenopsis amabilis (L.) Blume 1825 East Malaysia to Papuasia 0– 600 m
  Phalaenopsis amboinensis J.J.Smith 1911 Ambon Island, Sulawesi, Papua and New Guinea and Indonesia
  Phalaenopsis aphrodite Rchb.f 1862 Philippine Islands, Sulu Archipelago, and Taiwan
  Phalaenopsis appendiculata Carr 1929 Pahang, Malaysia to northeastern Borneo
  Phalaenopsis bastianii O.Gruss & L.Röllke 1991 the Philippines - Luzon, in the Sulu Archipelago
  Phalaenopsis bellina Christenson 1995 Borneo 200 m and below
Phalaenopsis braceana (Hook. f.) Christenson 1986 Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan, Myanamar, Thailand, Vietnam, China - Yunnan 1100 – 2100 m.
  Phalaenopsis buyssoniana Rchb. f. 1888 Indochina, Thailand, and Vietnam
Phalaenopsis cacharensis (Barbhuiya, B.K.Dutta & Schuit.) Kocyan & Schuit. 2014 India (Cachar, Assam)
  Phalaenopsis celebensis Sweet 1980 Sulawesi
  Phalaenopsis chibae T.Yukawa 1996 Vietnam 400 – 600 m
  Phalaenopsis cochlearis Holttum 1964 Malaysia and Sarawak, Borneo 450 – 700 m
  Phalaenopsis corningiana Rchb. f. 1879 Borneo 450 – 610 m
  Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi (Breda) Blume & Rchb.f. 1860 India, Myanamar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Nicobar Islands, Malaysia, Java, Borneo, Sumatra, and the Philippines 1000 m and below
  Phalaenopsis deliciosa Rchb. f. 1854 India to SE Asia, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and the Philippines 600 m and below
  Phalaenopsis difformis (Wall. ex Lindl.) Kocyan & Schuit. 2014 Assam India, eastern Himalayas, Nepal, western Himalayas, Myanmar, Thailand, Malayasia, Laos, central and southern China, Vietnam, Borneo and Sumatra 300 – 1600 m
  Phalaenopsis doweryënsis Garay & Christenson 2001 Sabah 150 m
  Phalaenopsis equestris [Schauer]Rchb.f 1849 Taiwan - Hsiao Lan Yü to the Philippines 0 – 300 m.
  Phalaenopsis fasciata Rchb.f 1882 the Philippines
  Phalaenopsis fimbriata J.J. Sm. 1921 Java, Sumatra and Sarawak 790 – 1300 m.
  Phalaenopsis finleyi Christenson 2011 Thailand and Burma
  Phalaenopsis floresensis Fowlie 1993 island of Flores in Indonesia 150 – 500 m
  Phalaenopsis fuscata Rchb. f. 1874 Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo, to Philippines - Palawan island 0 – 1000 m
  Phalaenopsis gibbosa H.R. Sweet 1970 Laos and northern Vietnam 0 – 1000 m
  Phalaenopsis gigantea J.J.Smith 1909 Sabah, Borneo, Java and Sarawak 0 – 400 m
  Phalaenopsis hieroglyphica [Rchb.f] Sweet 1969 the Philippines - Luzon, Leyte, Samar, Palawan, and Mindanao islands
  Phalaenopsis honghenensis F.Y. Liu 1991 China - Yunnan 2000 m
  Phalaenopsis inscriptiosinensis Fowlie 1983 Central Sumatra 914 m and below
  Phalaenopsis japonica (Rchb.f.) Kocyan & Schuit. 2014 W Yunnan, Zhejiang, Japan (Southern areas to Ryukyu Islands), Korea (Jeollanam-do). 600 – 1400 m
  Phalaenopsis javanica J.J.Sm. 1918 Western Java
Phalaenopsis kapuasensis Metusala & P.O'Byrne 2017 Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia 50 – 200 m
  Phalaenopsis kunstleri Hook. f. 1890 Myanmar to Malaysia
  Phalaenopsis lindenii Loher 1895 the Philippines - Luzon island 1000 – 1500 m
  Phalaenopsis lobbii (Rchb. f.) H.R. Sweet 1980 Himalayas, NE India, Bhutan, Sikkim, Myanamar and Vietnam 366 – 1200 m
  Phalaenopsis lowii Rchb.f 1862 Myanamar, Thailand and Borneo 800 m.
  Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana Rchb.f 1862 the Philippines below 100 m.
Phalaenopsis luteola (Burb. ex Garay) Christenson & O.Gruss 2001 Northwestern Borneo
  Phalaenopsis maculata Rchb.f 1881 Malaya to Borneo and Sulawesi 0 – 1000 m
  Phalaenopsis malipoensis Z.J.Liu & S.C.Chen 2005 China - Yunnan
  Phalaenopsis mannii Rchb.f 1871 Indian Himalayas, Assam, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Myanamar, southern China and Vietnam 500 – 1500 m
  Phalaenopsis mariae Burbidge ex Warner & Williams 1883 Northeastern Borneo to the Philippines - Mindanao 600 m
Phalaenopsis marriottiana (Rchb.f.) Kocyan & Schuit. 2014 Guangxi China and Myanmar
  Phalaenopsis mentawaiensis O.Gruss 2014 Mentawai Islands of Sumatra
  Phalaenopsis micholitzii Rchb. f. 1874 the Philippines - Mindanao island 400 m
Phalaenopsis mirabilis (Seidenf.) Schuit. 2007 Thailand.
  Phalaenopsis modesta J.J. Sm. 1906 Borneo 50 – 900 m
Phalaenopsis mysorensis C.J.Saldanha 1974 Mysore, India.
Phalaenopsis natmataungensis (T.Yukawa, Nob.Tanaka & J.Murata) Dalström & Ormerod 2010 Myanmar 1700 – 1950 m
  Phalaenopsis pallens [Lindley]Rchb.f 1864 the Philippines - Luzon and Mindanao islands 500 m
  Phalaenopsis pantherina Rchb. f. 1864 Borneo 0 – 800 m.
  Phalaenopsis parishii Rchb. f. 1865 eastern Himalayas, Assam India, Myanamar, Thailand and Vietnam below 500 m
  Phalaenopsis philippinensis Golamco ex Fowlie & C.Z.Tang 1987 the Philippines - Luzon island up to 1200 m
  Phalaenopsis pulcherrima (Lindl.) J.J.Sm. 1933 Assam India, Myanamar, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Yunnan and Xizang China, Vietnam, Borneo and Sumatra
  Phalaenopsis pulchra (Rchb. f.) H.R. Sweet 1968 the Philippines - Luzon island 100 – 650 m
  Phalaenopsis reichenbachiana Rchb.f. & Sander 1882 the Philippines - Mindanao island
Phalaenopsis robinsonii J.J.Sm. 1917 Ambon, Maluku. the Moluccas
Phalaenopsis rundumensis P.J.Cribb & A.L.Lamb [2012] 2011 Sabah
  Phalaenopsis sanderiana Rchb. f. 1883 the Philippines - Mindanao island
  Phalaenopsis schilleriana Rchb.f 1860 the Philippines - Luzon, Mindoro, and Biliran islands 0 – 450 m
  Phalaenopsis stobartiana Rchb. f. 1877 China - southeastern Tibet to Guangxi
  Phalaenopsis stuartiana Rchb.f. 1881 the Philippines - Mindanao island below 300 m
Phalaenopsis subparishii (Z.H.Tsi) Kocyan & Schuit. 2014. N Fujian, N Guangdong, NE Guizhou, SW Hubei, Hunan, NE Sichuan, Zhejiang. 300 – 1100 m
  Phalaenopsis sumatrana Korth. & Rchb. f. 1860 Indochina, Borneo to Philippines - Palawan island 700 m
  Phalaenopsis taenialis [Lindl.] E.A Christ. & Pradham 1986 Himalayas, Assam India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Myanmar, to China - Yunnan 1000 – 2500 m
  Phalaenopsis tetraspis Rchb.f. 1868 Andaman and Nicobar Islands to northwestern Sumatra 0 m.
  Phalaenopsis thailandica O.Gruss & Roeth 2009 Thailand
Phalaenopsis tsii (M.H.Li, Z.J.Liu & S.R.Lan) Hua Deng, Z.J.Liu & Yan Wang 2015 China (Hunan) 1200 – 1850 m
Phalaenopsis ubonensis (O.Gruss) J.M.H.Shaw 2014 Thailand and Laos
  Phalaenopsis venosa Shim & Fowlie 1983 Celebes Islands, Sulawesi 914 m.
  Phalaenopsis violacea Witte 1861 Malaya to Sumatra 150 m.
  Phalaenopsis viridis J.J. Sm 1907 Sumatra 700 – 1000 m
  Phalaenopsis wilsonii Rolfe 1909 Sichuan, Eastern Tibet,Yunnan, and Guangxi, China 800 – 2200 m
Phalaenopsis yingjiangensis (Z.H.Tsi) Kocyan & Schuit. 2014 Yunnan China and India 1584 m
Phalaenopsis zhejiangensis (Z.H.Tsi) Schuit. 2012 Zhejiang China 300 – 900 m

Natural hybridsEdit

  • Phalaenopsis × amphitrite Kraenzl. (P. sanderiana × P. stuartiana; Mindanao, Philippines)
  • Phalaenopsis × gersenii (P. sumatrana × P. violacea; Borneo and Sumatra)
  • Phalaenopsis hieroglyphica × lueddemanniana (P. hieroglyphica × P. lueddemanniana; Philippines)
  • Phalaenopsis × intermedia Lindl. (P. aphrodite × P. equestris; star of Leyte; Leyte, Philippines) (First recognized Phalaenopsis hybrid)
    • Phalaenopsis × intermedia var. diezii (P. aphrodite × P. equestris; star of Leyte; Leyte, Philippines)
  • Phalaenopsis × leucorrhoda Rchb.f. (P. aphrodite × P. schilleriana; Luzon, Philippines)
  • Phalaenopsis × rolfeana H.R.Sweet
  • Phalaenopsis × rothschildiana (P. amabilis × P. schilleriana; Luzon, Philippines)
  • Phalaenopsis × schilleriano-stuartiana (P. schilleriana × P. stuartiana; Leyte, Philippines)
  • Phalaenopsis × singuliflora (P. bellina × P. sumatrana; Borneo)
  • Phalaenopsis × valentinii Rchb.f.
  • Phalaenopsis × veitchiana (P. equestris × P. schilleriana; Luzon and Leyte, Philippines)
Floral arrangement

Intergeneric hybridsEdit

The following nothogenera have been established for intergeneric hybrids which include species of Phalaenopsis as ancestors.

Pink phalaenopsis (moth) orchids

Post-pollination changesEdit

Phalaenopsis are unique in that in some species, the flowers turn into green leaves after pollination. As in many other plants, the petals of the orchid flowers serve to attract pollinating insects and protect essential organs. Following pollination, petals usually will undergo senescence (i.e. wilt and disintegrate) because it is metabolically expensive to maintain them. However, in many Phalaenopsis species, such as P. violacea, the petals and sepals find new uses following pollination, thus escaping programmed cell death. In producing chloroplasts, they turn green, become fleshy, and start to photosynthesize, as leaves do.[13]


In Phalaenopsis, phenylpropanoid enzymes are enhanced in the process of plant acclimatisation at different levels of photosynthetic photon flux.[14]

Use in horticultureEdit

Phalaenopsis bellina

Phalaenopsis, abbreviated Phal in the horticultural trade,[15] are among the most popular orchids sold as potted plants, owing to the ease of propagation and flowering under artificial conditions. They were among the first tropical orchids in Victorian collections. Since the advent of the tetraploid hybrid Phalaenopsis Doris, they have become extremely easy to grow and flower in the home, as long as some care is taken to provide them with conditions that approximate their native habitats. Their commercial production has become an industry.

If very healthy, a Phalaenopsis plant may have up to ten or more leaves. They bloom in their full glory for several weeks. If kept in the home, the flowers may last two to three months after which a phalaenopsis orchid will need to conserve energy for further leaf, bud, and root development.[16]

In nature, Phalaenopsis species are typically fond of warm temperatures, thriving in temperatures around 20 to 35 °C (68–95 °F), but are adaptable to conditions more comfortable for human habitation in temperate zones (15 to 30 °C or 59–86 °F); at temperatures below 18 °C (64.4 °F) overwatering causes root rot. Phalaenopsis requires high humidity (60–70%) and low light of 12,000 to 20,000 lux. However, Phalaenopsis orchids can adapt to the lower humidity found in most homes. They are also typically hardier than other species of orchids, and this makes them particularly popular among first-time orchid growers.[17]

The flower spikes appear from the pockets near the base of each leaf. The first sign is a light green "mitten-like" object that protrudes from the basal leaf tissue. Over approximately three months the spike elongates until it begins to swell fat buds that will bloom.

It previously was believed that flowering is triggered by a night-time drop in temperature of around 5 to 6 degrees over two to four consecutive weeks, usually in the fall, and a day-time drop in temperature to below 29 °C (84 °F). Using two Phalaenopsis clones, Matthew G. Blanchard and Erik S. Runkle (2006) established that, other culture conditions being optimal, flower initiation is controlled by daytime temperatures declining below 27 °C (81 °F), with a definite inhibition of flowering at temperatures exceeding 29 °C (84 °F). The long-held belief that reduced evening temperatures control flower initiation in Phalaenopsis was shown to be false. Rather, lower daytime temperatures influence flowering, while night time temperatures do not appear to have any effect.[18]

The effect of fertilizer source and medium composition on vegetative growth and mineral nutrition has been studied.[19]


In cultivation in the UK, the following have been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:


  1. ^ a b c "Phalaenopsis". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  2. ^ a b Jones, David L. (2006). A complete guide to native orchids of Australia including the island territories. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W.: New Holland. p. 440. ISBN 978-1877069123.
  3. ^ Chen, Xinqi; Wood, Jeffrey James. "Phalaenopsis". Flora of China. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  4. ^ Jones D.L.; et al. (2006). "Phalaenopsis". Australian Tropical Rainforest Orchids. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  5. ^ "Genus Phalaenopsis". Orchids of New Guinea. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  6. ^ "Phalaenopsis Page". Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia. Jay Pfahl. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  7. ^ Blume, Carl Ludwig (1825). Bijdragen tot de flora van Nederlandsch Indië (Part 7). Batavia. p. 294. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  8. ^ a b Brown, Roland Wilbur (1956). The Composition of Scientific Words. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  9. ^ Coombes, Allen J. (1994). Dictionary of Plant Names. London: Hamlyn Books. ISBN 978-0-600-58187-1. p. 140
  10. ^ "Alphabetical list of standard abbreviations of all generic names occurring in current use in orchid hybrid registration as at 31st December 2007" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society.
  11. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  12. ^ Flora of China v 25 p 448, 羽唇兰属 yu chun lan shu, Ornithochilus (Wallich ex Lindley) Bentham & J. D. Hooker, Gen. Pl. 3: 478, 581. 1883.
  13. ^ Wouter G. van Doorn (October 2005). "Plant programmed cell death and the point of no return". Trends in Plant Science. 10 (10): 478–483. doi:10.1016/j.tplants.2005.08.003. PMID 16153879.
  14. ^ Mohammad Babar Ali, Serida Khatun, Eun-Joo Hahn and Kee-Yoeup Paek,, 2006. "Enhancement of phenylpropanoid enzymes and lignin in Phalaenopsis orchid and their influence on plant acclimatisation at different levels of photosynthetic photon flux". Plant Growth Regulation volume 49, Numbers 2-3, pages 137-146, doi:10.1007/s10725-006-9003-z
  15. ^ Stockton, Josh (20 January 2013). "Complete Care Guide to Phalaenopsis Orchid Care". Orchids Plus. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  16. ^ "How to Care for Orchids: A Comprehensive Organic Guide".
  17. ^ Growing Conditions for Phalaenopsis Orchids, Accessed 11/11/2012 Archived 2013-01-14 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Blanchard, Matthew G; Runkle, Erik S (2006). "Temperature during the day, but not during the night, controls flowering of Phalaenopsis orchids". Journal of Experimental Botany. 57 (15): 4043–4050. doi:10.1093/jxb/erl176. PMID 17075080.
  19. ^ Wang, Yin-Tung; Konow, Elise A. (2002). "Fertilizer Source and Medium Composition Affect Vegetative Growth and Mineral Nutrition of a Hybrid Moth Orchid". American Society for Horticultural Science. 127 (3): 442–447. doi:10.21273/JASHS.127.3.442. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  20. ^ "Phalaenopsis Brother Pico Sweetheart gx". RHS. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  21. ^ "Phalaenopsis amabilis". RHS. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  22. ^ "Phalaenopsis Yellow Lightning gx". RHS. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  • Seon Kim; Clifford W. Morden; Yoneo Sagawa & Jae -Young Kim (2003). "The Phylogeny of Phalaenopsis Species". Proceedings of NIOC2003, Nagoya, Japan.
  • Olaf Gruss & Manfred Wolf - Phalaenopsis ; Edition Ulmer, ISBN 3-8001-6551-1 (in German)
  • Eric A. Christenson - Phalaenopsis: a Monograph ; ISBN 0-88192-494-6
  • Harper, Tom (February 2004). Phalaenopsis Culture: Advice for Growing 20 Species. Orchids Magazine 73 (2). Delray Beach, FL: American Orchid Society, 2004
  • Leroy-Terquem, Gerald and Jean Parisot. 1991. Orchids: Care and Cultivation. London: Cassel Publishers Ltd.
  • Schoser, Gustav. 1993. Orchid Growing Basics. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
  • White, Judy. 1996. Taylor’s Guide to Orchids. Frances Tenenbaum, Series Editor. New York: Houghton-Mifflin, ISBN 0395677262

External linksEdit