"Phal" redirects here. For the curry dish, see Phall.
Closeup of a Phalaenopsis flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Vandeae
Subtribe: Aeridinae
Alliance: Phalaenopsis
Genus: Phalaenopsis
Blume 1825
Type species
Phalaenopsis amabilis
Blume (1825)
  • Doritis Lindl.
  • Grafia A. D. Hawkes
  • Kingidium P. F. Hunt
  • Kingiella Rolfe
  • Polychilos Breda
  • Polystylus Hasselt ex Hassk.
  • Staurites Rchb. f.
  • Stauroglottis Schauer
  • Synadena Raf.
  • Grussia M.Wolff
  • Lesliea Seidenf.

Phalaenopsis /ˌfælˈnɒpsɪs/ Blume (1825), known as moth orchids, abbreviated Phal in the horticultural trade,[2] is an orchid genus of approximately 60 species. Phalaenopsis is one of the most popular orchids in the trade, through the development of many artificial hybrids. It is native to southern China, Taiwan, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia (Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.), New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and Queensland.[1][3]


The generic name from Greek means φαλαινα "Phalaen[a]-like" and is probably a reference to the genus Phalaena, the name given by Carl Linnaeus to a group of large moths; the flowers of some species supposedly resemble moths in flight.[4] For this reason, the species are sometimes called moth orchids.

They are native throughout southeast Asia from the Himalayan mountains to the islands of Polillo, Palawan and Zamboanga del Norte in the island of Mindanao in the Philippines and northern Australia. Orchid Island of Taiwan is named after this genus. Little recent information about their habitat and their ecology in nature is available since little field research has been done in the last decades.

Most are epiphytic shade plants; a few are lithophytes.[5] In the wild, some species grow below the canopies of moist and humid lowland forests, protected against direct sunlight; others grow in seasonally dry or cool environments. The species have adapted individually to these three habitats.

Possessing neither pseudobulbs nor rhizome, Phalaenopsis shows a monopodial growth habit: a single growing stem produces one or two alternate, thick, fleshy, elliptical leaves a year from the top while the older, basal leaves drop off at the same rate. If very healthy, a Phalaenopsis plant can have up to ten or more leaves. The inflorescence, either a raceme or panicle, appears from the stem between the 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.[6]

Some Phalaenopsis species in Malaysia are known to use subtle weather cues to coordinate mass flowering.


The genus can be classified into two groups :

In terms of Raunkiær plant lifeform terminology, these plants are epiphytes.

Based on DNA evidence, the genera Doritis Lindl. and Kingidium P.F.Hunt are now included in Phalaenopsis, according to the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.[7] However, not every specialist in this field accepts these taxonomic changes.

Intensive cross-fertilization has produced a great number of hybrids in all colors and variations. These are usually more adaptable to artificial conditions than their botanical ancestors. Many are hybrids of Phalaenopsis amabilis, Phalaenopsis schilleriana or Phalaenopsis stuartiana.


Phalaenopsis cultivar, possibly 'Aphrodite'
Phalaenopsis cultivar
Phalaenopsis (Barbara Moler x Johanna)
Pink Phalaenopsis
Detail of a phalaenopsis cultivar
Phalaenopsis cultivars
Phalaenopsis Mambo (a hybrid cultivar)
Phalaenopsis Nivacolor (a hybrid cultivar)

Natural hybrids

Phalaenopsis Orchid Floral Arrangement

Intergeneric hybrids

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

Pink Phalaenopsis (Moth) Orchids

Post-pollination changes in Phalaenopsis orchids

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 will usually 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.[8]

Growing Phalaenopsis

Phalaenopsis bellina

Phalaenopsis 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.

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 to 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.[9]

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 about three months the spike elongates until it begins to swell fat buds which will bloom.

It was previously 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 is shown to be false. Rather, lower daytime temperatures influence flowering, while night time temperatures do not appear to have any effect.[10]


In Phalaenopsis, phenylpropanoid enzymes are enhanced in the process of plant acclimatisation at different levels of photosynthetic photon flux.[11]


  1. 1 2 Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  3. Flora of China v 25 p 478, 蝴蝶兰属 hu die lan shu, Phalaenopsis Blume, Bijdr. 294. 1825.
  4. Coombes, Allen J. (1994). Dictionary of Plant Names. London: Hamlyn Books. ISBN 978-0-600-58187-1. p. 140
  5. "Phalaenopsis Page". Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia. Jay Pfahl. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  6. "How to Care for Orchids: A Comprehensive Organic Guide".
  7. "Phalaenopsis". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2012-04-10.
  8. 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.
  9. Growing Conditions for Phalaenopsis Orchids, Accessed 11/11/2012
  10. 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.
  11. 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

External links

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