Green leaves that do their own thing, growing sideways and with lots of flowers in between. Dendrobium is an orchid which really is quite different from the rest of the family.
Colours and shapes
Stately with a crown of flowers that rise upwards, Dendrobium is certainly distinctive. It differs from other orchid species in the cluster of flowers that form at the axil of each leaf and which give off a lovely fragrance. The unusual way of flowering on the stem means that Dendrobium looks very different from most orchids. The plant blooms for at least 8 weeks with sizeable flowers which are five to eight centimetres wide. The colour varies from entirely white through yellow and orange to red and purple and combinations of those colours.
The name comes from the Greek word 'dendron' meaning ‘tree’ and 'bios' meaning ‘life’. Many Dendrobium species are known for being good at removing toluene (the most important ingredient in thinner) and xylene (a solvent for resins and fats) from the air. They are therefore viewed as natural air conditioners.
In the wild this orchid occurs from the cool mountains of the Himalayas to the jungle of New Guinea and the Australian desert, usually on branches of trees as an epiphyte (which means that they grow on other plants and trees without drawing nutrients from them). It’s a strong plant which can tolerate hot days and cold nights. There are around 1200 different species of Dendrobium. The earliest mention of the orchid in the West was in 1799, when Olof Schwartz first described it.