Orchid (Phalaenopsis gigantea)

loading
Phalaenopsis gigantea flowers
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Orchid fact file

Orchid description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassLiliopsida
OrderOrchidales
FamilyOrchidaceae (1)
GenusPhalaenopsis

This epiphytic orchid is known locally as 'elephant ears' due to the enormous, olive- green leaves of this species (2). Five or six large, waxy leaves hang from the stems of the orchid from its position above the ground, supported on tree branches. The pale yellow-green inflorescence (or flower stem) also dangles from the plant; in season, this bears many, small fragrant flowers and the record is 97 on a single spike (3). The petals and sepals of the flower are brightly coloured with a yellow/white background that is heavily marked with purple-brown bars (2). Three different colour varieties are known: a reddish brown pattern on a white background, reddish brown on yellow, and pale brown on yellow (2). The flower lip has three lobes; the outer ones are sickle-shaped and have a row of yellow-orange teeth (2).

Size
Leaf length: 68.5 cm (2)
Leaf width: 25.5 cm (2)
Inflorescence length: up to 40 cm (3)
Top

Orchid biology

Phalaeonpsis gigantea lives up to its species name, producing the largest plants in the genus. Due to their large size however, these plants tend to be slow growing (2). The flowers of each plant usually open simultaneously, producing an extremely impressive display (3).

Top

Orchid range

This orchid is currently known from Sabah and Kalimantan on the island of Borneo in South East Asia (2). Previously, Phalaeonpsis gigantea was also found on the nearby island of Java in Indonesia (3).

Top

Orchid habitat

Found in primary rainforest (3), up to 400 metres above sea level (2).

Top

Orchid status

Listed on Appendix II of CITES (4).

Top

Orchid threats

This species is under threat from the demand for mature plants in the horticulture trade. Due to the long time that it takes seedlings to reach maturity, wild plants tend to be collected to meet the demand, and Phalaeonpsis gigantea could easily be brought to extinction purely from collection (2). Large numbers of this species were previously known from Borneo and Java but it has suffered greatly from over-collection (3).

Top

Orchid conservation

Due to the life history characteristics of this species, it may be necessary to control trade in order to preserve this magnificent orchid in the wild (2). Trade is restricted at present, due to the listing of Phalaenopsis gigantea on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (4).

Top

Authentication

Authenticated (5/6/03) by Dr Phillip Cribb. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk

Top

Glossary

Epiphytic
A plant that uses another plant, typically a tree, for its physical support, but which does not draw nourishment from it.
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Inflorescence
The reproductive shoot of the plant, which bears flowers (See http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/ksheets/pdfs/flower.pdf for a fact sheet on flower structure).
Sepals
A floral leaf (collectively comprising the calyx of the flower) that forms the protective outer layer of a flower bud. (See http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/ksheets/pdfs/flower.pdf for a fact sheet on flower structure).
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2003) www.redlist.org
  2. Christenson, E.A. (2001) Phalaenopsis: a monograph. Timber Press, Oregon.
  3. Sweet, H.R. (1980) The Genus Phalaenopsis. Orchid Digest.
  4. CITES (May, 2003) www.cites.org
X
Close

Image credit

Phalaenopsis gigantea flowers  
Phalaenopsis gigantea flowers

© Phillip J. Cribb / Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Richmond
Surrey
TW9 3AB
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 332 5000
Fax: +44 (0) 208 332 5197
info@kew.org
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk

X
Close

Link to this photo

Arkive species - Orchid (Phalaenopsis gigantea) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog

Back To Top