Phalaenopsis (Blume 1825) is a genus of approximately 60 species of orchids (family Orchidaceae). The abbreviation in the horticultural trade is Phal.
The generic name means "Phalaen[a]-like" and is probably a reference to the genus Phalaena, the name given by Carolus Linnaeus to a group of large moths; the flowers of some species supposedly resemble moths in flight. 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 and Palawan of the Philippines and northern Australia. Orchid Island off Taiwan is named after this orchid. Little is known about their habitat and their ecology in nature since little field research has been done in the last decades.
Most are epiphytic shade plants; a few are lithophytes. In the wild they are typically found below the canopies of moist and humid lowland forests, protected against direct sunlight, but equally in seasonally dry or cool environments. The species have adapted individually to these three habitats.
Phalaenopsis shows a monopodial growth habit. An erect growing rhizome produces from the top one or two alternate, thick and fleshy, elliptical leaves a year. The older, basal leaves drop off at the same rate. The plant retains in this way four to five leaves. If very healthy, they can have up to ten or more leaves. They have no pseudobulbs. The raceme appears from the stem between the leaves. They bloom in their full glory for several weeks. If kept in the home, they usually last two to three months, which is considered quite a long time.
Some Phalaenopsis species in Malaysia are known to use subtle weather cues to coordinate mass flowering.
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