Phalaenopsis /ˌfælɪˈnɒpsɪs/ Blume (1825), commonly known as moth orchids,[2] is a genus of about seventy species of orchids in the family orchid. 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, China, Southeast Asia, New Guinea and Australia with the majority in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Moth orchids
Phalaenopsis amabilis
Scientific classification
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 naming

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][1] The name Phalaenopsis is derived from the Ancient Greek word phalaina (φαλαινα) meaning "a kind of moth"[8]:535 with the suffix -opsis meaning "having the appearance of" or "like".[8]:483[9]


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 disversity 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:

ImageNameDistributionElevation (m)
Phalaenopsis amabilis (L.) Blume 1825East Malaysia to Papuasia0– 600 meters
Phalaenopsis amboinensis J.J.Smith 1911Ambon Island, Sulawesi, Papua and New Guinea and Indonesia
Phalaenopsis aphrodite Rchb.f 1862 Philippine Islands, Sulu Archipelago, and Taiwan, China
Phalaenopsis appendiculata Carr 1929 Pahang, Malaysia to northeastern Borneo
Phalaenopsis bastianii O.Gruss & L.Röllke 1991the Philippines - Luzon, in the Sulu Archipelago
Phalaenopsis bellina Christenson 1995 Borneo200 meters and below
Phalaenopsis braceana (Hook. f.) Christenson 1986 Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan, Myanamar, Thailand, Vietnam, China - Yunnan1100 – 2100 meters.
Phalaenopsis buyssoniana Rchb. f. 1888 Indochina, Thailand, and Vietnam
Phalaenopsis cacharensis (Barbhuiya, B.K.Dutta & Schuit.) Kocyan & Schuit. 2014India (Cachar, Assam)
Phalaenopsis celebensis Sweet 1980Sulawesi
Phalaenopsis chibae T.Yukawa 1996 Vietnam400 – 600 meters
Phalaenopsis cochlearis Holttum 1964 Malaysia and Sarawak, Borneo450 – 700 meters
Phalaenopsis corningiana Rchb. f. 1879 Borneo450 – 610 meters
Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi (Breda) Blume & Rchb.f. 1860 India, Myanamar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Nicobar Islands, Malaysia, Java, Borneo, Sumatra, and the Philippines1000 meters and below
Phalaenopsis deliciosa Rchb. f. 1854 India to SE Asia, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and the Philippines600 meters 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 Sumatra300 – 1600 meters
Phalaenopsis doweryënsis Garay & Christenson 2001Sabah150 meters
Phalaenopsis equestris [Schauer]Rchb.f 1849Taiwan - Hsiao Lan Yü to the Philippines0 – 300 meters.
Phalaenopsis fasciata Rchb.f 1882the Philippines
Phalaenopsis fimbriata J.J. Sm. 1921Java, Sumatra and Sarawak790 – 1300 meters.
Phalaenopsis finleyi Christenson 2011Thailand and Burma
Phalaenopsis floresensis Fowlie 1993 island of Flores in Indonesia150 – 500 meters
Phalaenopsis fuscata Rchb. f. 1874 Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo, to Philippines - Palawan island0 – 1000 meters
Phalaenopsis gibbosa H.R. Sweet 1970 Laos and northern Vietnam0 – 1000 meters
Phalaenopsis gigantea J.J.Smith 1909 Sabah, Borneo, Java and Sarawak0 – 400 meters
Phalaenopsis hieroglyphica [Rchb.f] Sweet 1969the Philippines - Luzon, Leyte, Samar, Palawan, and Mindanao islands
Phalaenopsis honghenensis F.Y. Liu 1991China - Yunnan2000 meters
Phalaenopsis inscriptiosinensis Fowlie 1983Central Sumatra914 meters and below
Phalaenopsis japonica (Rchb.f.) Kocyan & Schuit. 2014W Yunnan, Zhejiang, Japan (Southern areas to Ryukyu Islands), Korea (Jeollanam-do).600 – 1400 meters
Phalaenopsis javanica J.J.Sm. 1918Western Java
Phalaenopsis kapuasensis Metusala & P.O'Byrne 2017Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia50 – 200 meters
Phalaenopsis kunstleri Hook. f. 1890Myanmar to Malaysia
Phalaenopsis lindenii Loher 1895the Philippines - Luzon island1000 – 1500 meters
Phalaenopsis lobbii (Rchb. f.) H.R. Sweet 1980Himalayas, NE India, Bhutan, Sikkim, Myanamar and Vietnam366 – 1200 meters
Phalaenopsis lowii Rchb.f 1862Myanamar, Thailand and Borneo800 meters.
Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana Rchb.f 1862the Philippinesbelow 100 meters.
Phalaenopsis luteola (Burb. ex Garay) Christenson & O.Gruss 2001Northwestern Borneo
Phalaenopsis maculata Rchb.f 1881Malaya to Borneo and Sulawesi0 – 1000 meters
Phalaenopsis malipoensis Z.J.Liu & S.C.Chen 2005China - Yunnan
Phalaenopsis mannii Rchb.f 1871Indian Himalayas, Assam, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Myanamar, southern China and Vietnam500 – 1500 meters
Phalaenopsis mariae Burbidge ex Warner & Williams 1883Northeastern Borneo to the Philippines - Mindanao600 meters
Phalaenopsis marriottiana (Rchb.f.) Kocyan & Schuit. 2014Guangxi China and Myanmar
Phalaenopsis mentawaiensis O.Gruss 2014Mentawai Islands of Sumatra
Phalaenopsis micholitzii Rchb. f. 1874the Philippines - Mindanao island400 meters
Phalaenopsis mirabilis (Seidenf.) Schuit. 2007Thailand.
Phalaenopsis modesta J.J. Sm. 1906Borneo50 – 900 meters
Phalaenopsis mysorensis C.J.Saldanha 1974Mysore, India.
Phalaenopsis natmataungensis (T.Yukawa, Nob.Tanaka & J.Murata) Dalström & Ormerod 2010Myanmar1700 – 1950 meters
Phalaenopsis pallens [Lindley]Rchb.f 1864the Philippines - Luzon and Mindanao islands500 meters
Phalaenopsis pantherina Rchb. f. 1864Borneo0 – 800 meters.
Phalaenopsis parishii Rchb. f. 1865eastern Himalayas, Assam India, Myanamar, Thailand and Vietnambelow 500 meters
Phalaenopsis philippinensis Golamco ex Fowlie & C.Z.Tang 1987the Philippines - Luzon islandup to 1200 meters
Phalaenopsis pulcherrima (Lindl.) J.J.Sm. 1933Assam India, Myanamar, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Yunnan and Xizang China, Vietnam, Borneo and Sumatra
Phalaenopsis pulchra (Rchb. f.) H.R. Sweet 1968the Philippines - Luzon island100 – 650 meters
Phalaenopsis reichenbachiana Rchb.f. & Sander 1882the Philippines - Mindanao island
Phalaenopsis robinsonii J.J.Sm. 1917Ambon, Maluku. the Moluccas
Phalaenopsis rundumensis P.J.Cribb & A.L.Lamb [2012] 2011Sabah
Phalaenopsis sanderiana Rchb. f. 1883the Philippines - Mindanao island
Phalaenopsis schilleriana Rchb.f 1860the Philippines - Luzon, Mindoro, and Biliran islands0 – 450 meters
Phalaenopsis stobartiana Rchb. f. 1877China - southeastern Tibet to Guangxi
Phalaenopsis stuartiana Rchb.f. 1881the Philippines - Mindanao islandbelow 300 meters
Phalaenopsis subparishii (Z.H.Tsi) Kocyan & Schuit. 2014.N Fujian, N Guangdong, NE Guizhou, SW Hubei, Hunan, NE Sichuan, Zhejiang.300 – 1100 meters
Phalaenopsis sumatrana Korth. & Rchb. f. 1860Indochina, Borneo to Philippines - Palawan island700 meters
Phalaenopsis taenialis [Lindl.] E.A Christ. & Pradham 1986Himalayas, Assam India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Myanmar, to China - Yunnan1000 – 2500 meters
Phalaenopsis tetraspis Rchb.f. 1868Andaman and Nicobar Islands to northwestern Sumatra0 meters.
Phalaenopsis thailandica O.Gruss & Roeth 2009Thailand
Phalaenopsis tsii (M.H.Li, Z.J.Liu & S.R.Lan) Hua Deng, Z.J.Liu & Yan Wang 2015China (Hunan)1200 – 1850 meters
Phalaenopsis ubonensis (O.Gruss) J.M.H.Shaw 2014Thailand and Laos
Phalaenopsis venosa Shim & Fowlie 1983Celebes Islands, Sulawesi914 meters.
Phalaenopsis violacea Witte 1861Malaya to Sumatra150 meters.
Phalaenopsis viridis J.J. Sm 1907Sumatra700 – 1000 meters
Phalaenopsis wilsonii Rolfe 1909Sichuan, Eastern Tibet,Yunnan, and Guangxi, China800 – 2200 meters
Phalaenopsis yingjiangensis (Z.H.Tsi) Kocyan & Schuit. 2014Yunnan China and India1584 meters
Phalaenopsis zhejiangensis (Z.H.Tsi) Schuit. 2012Zhejiang China300 – 900 meters

Natural hybrids

  • 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)

Intergeneric hybrids

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

  • ×Aeridopsis (Aerides × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Arachnopsis (Arachnis × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Asconopsis (Ascocentrum × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Beardara (Ascocentrum × Doritis × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Bogardara (Ascocentrum × Phalaenopsis × Vanda × Vandopsis)
  • ×Bokchoonara (Arachnis × Ascocentrum × Phalaenopsis × Vanda)
  • ×Cleisonopsis (Cleisocentron × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Devereuxara (Ascocentrum × Phalaenopsis × Vanda)
  • ×Diplonopsis (Diploprora × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Doriellaopsis (Doritis × Kingiella × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Doritaenopsis (Doritis × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Dresslerara (Ascoglossum × Phalaenopsis × Renanthera )
  • ×Edeara (Arachnis × Phalaenopsis × Renanthera × Vandopsis)
  • ×Ernestara (Phalaenopsis × Renanthera × Vandopsis)
  • ×Eurynopsis (Eurychone × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Hagerara (Doritis × Phalaenopsis × Vanda)
  • ×Hausermannara (Doritis × Phalaenopsis × Vandopsis)
  • ×Himoriara (Ascocentrum × Phalaenopsis × Rhynchostylis × Vanda)
  • ×Isaoara (Aerangis × Ascocentrum × Phalaenopsis × Vanda)
  • ×Laycockara (Arachnis × Phalaenopsis × Vandopsis)
  • ×Lichtara (Doritis × Gastrochilus × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Luinopsis (Luisia × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Lutherara (Phalaenopsis × Renanthera × Rhynchostylis )
  • ×Macekara (Arachnis × Phalaenopsis × Renanthera × Vanda × Vandopsis)
  • ×Meechaiara (Ascocentrum × Doritis × Phalaenopsis × Rhynchostylis × Vanda)
  • ×Moirara (Phalaenopsis × Renanthera × Vanda)
  • ×Nakagawaara (Aerides × Doritis × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Owensara (Doritis × Phalaenopsis × Renanthera )
  • ×Parnataara (Aerides × Arachnis × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Paulara (Ascocentrum × Doritis × Phalaenopsis × Renanthera × Vanda)
  • ×Pepeara (Ascocentrum × Doritis × Phalaenopsis × Renanthera )
  • ×Phalaerianda (Aerides × Phalaenopsis × Vanda)
  • ×Phalandopsis (Phalaenopsis × Vandopsis)
  • ×Phalanetia (Neofinetia × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Phaliella (Kingiella × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Phalphalaenopsis (Phalaenopsis × Paraphalaenopsis)
  • ×Pooleara (Ascocentrum × Ascoglossum × Phalaenopsis × Renanthera )
  • ×Renanthopsis (Phalaenopsis × Renanthera )
  • ×Rhynchonopsis (Phalaenopsis × Rhynchostylis)
  • ×Rhyndoropsis (Doritis × Phalaenopsis × Rhynchostylis)
  • ×Richardmizutaara (Ascocentrum × Phalaenopsis × Vandopsis)
  • ×Roseara (Doritis × Kingiella × Phalaenopsis × Renanthera )
  • ×Sappanara (Arachnis × Phalaenopsis × Renanthera)
  • ×Sarconopsis (Phalaenopsis × Sarcochilus)
  • ×Sidranara (Ascocentrum × Phalaenopsis × Renanthera)
  • ×Sladeara (Doritis × Phalaenopsis × Sarcochilus)
  • ×Stamariaara (Ascocentrum × Phalaenopsis × Renanthera × Vanda)
  • ×Sutingara (Arachnis × Ascocentrum × Phalaenopsis × Vanda × Vandopsis)
  • ×Trautara (Doritis × Luisia × Phalaenopsis)
  • ×Trevorara (Arachnis × Phalaenopsis × Vanda)
  • ×Trichonopsis (Phalaenopsis × Trichoglottis)
  • ×Uptonara (Phalaenopsis × Rhynchostylis × Sarcochilus)
  • ×Vandaenopsis (Phalaenopsis × Vanda)
  • ×Vandewegheara (Ascocentrum × Doritis × Phalaenopsis × Vanda)
  • ×Yapara (Phalaenopsis × Rhynchostylis × Vanda)
  • ×Yeepengara (Aerides × Phalaenopsis × Rhynchostylis × Vanda)

Post-pollination changes

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. 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 apparently, start to photosynthesize, as leaves do.[10]

Use in horticulture

Phalaenopsis, abbreviated Phal in the horticultural trade,[11] 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.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14]


In Phalaenopsis, phenylpropanoid enzymes are enhanced in the process of plant acclimatisation at different levels of photosynthetic photon flux.[15]


  1. "Phalaenopsis". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  2. 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. "Phalaenopsis". Trin keys. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  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. 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. 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.
  12. "How to Care for Orchids: A Comprehensive Organic Guide".
  13. Growing Conditions for Phalaenopsis Orchids, Accessed 11/11/2012 Archived 2013-01-14 at the Wayback Machine
  14. 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.
  15. 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
  • 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
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