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  • How to Identify Dendrobium Orchids

    There are so many different Dendrobiums but they divide very easily into two (2) groups,Soft cane and Hard cane.
    The soft cane is characterised by Dendrobium nobile a rather variable species,all require good light to grow and flower well.Feed and water well during the growth faze and then with hold all fertilizers and just mistwater about once a week ,(just enough to stop siver shrivelling of the canes), until new growth is well under way and new root growth is clearly visible.

    Most of the breeding of these plants has taken place in Japan by a Mr Yamamoto.Some of the flowers of these hybrids are 2 1/2 inches across.

    Den nobile

    Den nobile growing in a hanging basket

    Den Yukidarian X self

    The second type is hard cane,These are the ones that are being sold as indoor flowering plants in the USA and a number of other counties.Most have Dendrobium bigibbum in thier breeding line,which gives them shape and genernally a dark throat. http://www.orchidspecies.com/denbiggibum.htm

    There are quite a few others that are in this group and they include

    =bigibbum=Cooktown orchid



    All these Dendrobiums like to grow quickly in the growing period and then go into a dry winter with high light and for some this means full sun.

    Within the two types above there are others like 'the Square Orchids' and the Nigro-Hirsute.
    I will cover the 'Square Orchids' in this section with Nigro-Hirsute,to come.

    The 'Square Orchids' are very few in number but are characterised by Dendrobium tetragonum but thyrsiflorum and densiflorum also have this square cross section.

    This Dendrobium is is one of the very few orchids that prefers to be grown on a branch or slab with the canes pointing down.It also is varyiable and there is two main varieties ,normal and giganteum

    This is considered the normal

    and giganteum

    Now for the last section that I will cover for now.

    The Hirsute,again is split as there is Nigro-Hirsute and Hirsute.The Nigro-Hirsute has species in it which are covered with a black fir like substance.Once the plants have been seen from both these sections all will be clear.Dendrobium formosum is probalily one of the most common heres a link http://www.orchidspecies.com/dendrob...argigantea.htm

    Dendrobium formosum

    another important one is Dendrobium infundibulum.

    Last but not least are the plants with fir/hair that is not black.
    Im not sure how many of these there are, but, Dendrobium senile is the main one

    and the corosponding link http://www.orchidspecies.com/dendrobiumsenile.htm

    Further info


    Dendrobium Kingianum

    An Australian native which is endemic to the states of New South Wales and Queensland. It is very variable in flower size, shape and color as well as plant size. In fact with the reading that I have been doing, the conclussion is that it is so inter breed and and crossed with other Austrailian Dendrobs that it is impossible to tell the species from some of the 70's-80's hybrids involing other species.The canes can be quite thickened at the base or thickened to someway up the pbulb. There are 3-6 rather hard leaves per cane, they are long lasting but are not very thick. The leaves can attain a length of 100mm(4”).The flower spikes are usually have 2-9 flowers about 25mm(1”) across, though hybrids and in breeding are producing flowers somewhat larger,50mm(2”).

    This is the Kingianum that we all know ....................... this is variety Album


    The habitat of this species is to live on rocks , very rarely on trees, in open forest from sea level to 1200m.
    When the plants are grown in full sun the canes can turn purple but this does not affect the flowering. The length of the canes the locality from where they were orginaly collected, with the longest canes coming from
    The boarder of New South Wales and Queensland.The further north or South from this area the canes get shorter. Kiekies are more readily produced from the plants with the longer canes than the shorter.


    Dendrobium Kingianum Is considered the easiest of the Austrailian Dendrobs to grow and flower. It can be grown just about any way that you like, on a slab, in a pot, in the shade, in full sun in a prepared garden beds, rockeries etc. provided some simple rules are followed. These rules are :-
    It does not like to be over potted , or have wet feet(roots) , plenty of air movement and a medium to high humidity. These items are all found in its natural environment. The potting of the plants should only provide
    enough room for one to two years growth and it is in a open mix with excellent drainage. Repot immediately after flowering because that is when the new growth is starting. Feed and water well while growing and then just enough water to stop the canes from shrivelling for the rest of the time. Minimum winter temps of 2degrees C are tolerated .Generally if the leaves have a slight purple tinge to them they are getting the right amount of light.


    In hybridizing Dendrobium Kingianum is very dominant in size, shape and color.In some of the 3rd generation progeny the color is still coming through. The albino forms do not produce a high percentage of whites, so the color genes in these is considered recessive. And the overall plant shape will resemble Dendrobium Kingianum.
    To complicate matters further it has been breed with D biggibum which produced Aussie Angel.


    Dendrobium speciosum is widespread along the eastern coast of Australia and up to 180km (110-120 miles)
    inland. It is also one of the ornamental flowers noted by the colonists and probably the convicts in Sydney.
    It was taken back to England about 1800 and has been admired ever since .It has colloquial names depending where you are living. South of the New South Wales boarder it is know as the ‘Rock Lilly’, north of that boarder (Queensland) it is known as the ‘King Orchid’.
    There seems to be a bit of a conflict as to how many varieties of there are with some saying that there are four and others saying there are six. The two main books that I am reading at the moment, both agree on there being six varieties.

    The southern most variety is D speciosum var Speciosum, with canes up to 60cm (2’), sometimes longer, but the average is 25-30cm (10 – 12 inches) tall. The flower spikes are about 30 – 45cm and carry 30 – 80 flowers. Its habitat is mainly on rock in open forest but also in some rainforest areas on trees. In parts of its habitats it is subjected to frost, snow, dry westerly winds in winter and searing heat in the summer.

    The next one up to coast is D speciosum var Hillii .The stems heregrow to 1m tall ,usually straight up and taper little through out. Cultivated plants seldom grow more than 45cm tall. It is quite common to have 100 or more flowers per spike. The habitat is the same as for D speciosum var Speciosum but this time more grow on trees than rock.

    Heading further up the coast we find D speciosum var Grandiflorum .The stems are very similar to Hillii
    But the leaves are longer and wider. They normally have 60 – 70 flowers per spike but 100 or more is also not uncommon. Again the habitat is the same and wild specimen plants have been recorded at 2.5m across.

    If we get into our vehicle again and drive north to the Tropic of Capricorn, we will find the next variety, and what its varietal name is. You guessed it Capricornicum. This plant a smaller Grandiflorum , smaller in all parts. Stems 7 – 25cm tall. These plants are normal found growing on sandstone rock faces near creeks and waterfalls. All known habitats of this Varity are dryer then that of Grandiflorum .

    The next variety that we come across in our northward travel is Curvicaule .The stems here are from 7 – about 100cm tall, varying in shape from narrow at the base and widest at the top, to curved stems to squat straight stems. The spikes on these plants are only about 27cm long and the flowers last about 15 days.

    The sixth plant that we come across in our travels is Pendunculatum .The stems are 5 – 16 cm tall but are normally only 7cm,conical and dwarf. The spikes are held upright and are very rigid ,with the flowers bunched at the top. It also normally produces one spike per stem The seed pods of this one are deep purple in color. The habitat is rock faces in full sun.

    Well that was a rundown on the varieties now we will consider the culture.
    It is an ideal plant for well drained rockeries, preferring to be the top most plant. It also grows well in the forks of large trees or on the top of sizeable tree stumps. In these positions it likes lots of light, Full sun will not hurt it. If it is grown in a pot ,it should be put into a very very open mix. As growth is very robust, it will require frequent repotting.Do not start a small plant in a pot that is big. The best time to repot is just after flowering has finished. A second growth faze can occur in autumn and they will still mature before winter.
    The minimum temperature for the southern forms is about 2degess C ,while the lower elevation ones from Queensland would like a temperature if 10C. The varieties Grandiflorum and Hillii like more shade than the others.It can take up to 12 years for one of these plants to mature to flowering size and will alternate flowering and growing years (some years it will only produce growth and the next year it will grow and flower). Water and feed the plants regularly over summer and allowed to dry off over autumn to help induce the flower spikes.


    Dendrobium biggibum and Dendrobium phalaenopsis have been considered one and the same in years past. And the orchid register is of no use as plants by the name of Dendrobium phalaenopsis have been used in breeding when infact the plant was Dendrobium biggibum and visa versa. Both are considered interlopers within the Aussie Dendrobs , they are both Queensland ,dry country , warm climate orchids. There are numerous varieties of Dendrobium biggibum including phalaenopsis, schroderianum and bicolor which are almost half as large again as the typical biggibum. The natural host without being specific, is dry scrubby timber in strong light.The climate is intensely wet from about October to March(southern hemisphere )and almost dry for the rest of the year.

    Dendrobium biggibum var compactum is the most major variety and it has canes 15 – 30 cm tall, stouter than the typical type. They are colored like the typical and ribbed with age. The typical has canes that are 30 – 60 cm tall and usually well colored with purple in their juvenile stage .Most of the variants of Dendrobium biggibum can be found growing as a lithophyte and in some areas in sandhill country with almost continuous sun .Cultivation in cooler climates where the summers are short and the temperatures fluctuate is not recommended for any. At bud stage major temperature changes are disastrous and anything below 20C may cause bud drop or at least development halt. The flower spikes can carry up to 20 blooms on compactum but the rest carry about 10.The flowers should open almost simultaneously or over a day or two.
    Clay pots were considered the best the best pots with little or no media to grow the plants so as to give the plant’s roots max air contact that they want.
    These plants also need very little in the way of fertilisers, when considering what they get in the wild.

    These plants need------- correct drainage, adequate sunlight, wet summers and dry, dormant periods.


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