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What is Dendrochilum?

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  • Written By: Soo Owens
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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Dendrochilum is a genus made up of flowering plants from the orchid family, Orchidaceae. The flowers on its two stems are very small and star-like in form. Dendrochilum are native to high altitude rainforests, primarily in Borneo and the Philippines.

The orchids of the Dendrochilum genus are evergreens. They are either epiphytic, lithophytic, or terrestrial, with most being epiphytic. Epiphytic refers to a plant that does not grow from the ground as terrestrial plants do, but rather on another, more sturdy plant. Most often, these epiphytes have attached themselves to trees and take what they need to survive from the rain and air. The Dendrochilum orchids that attach to rocks instead of other plants are called lithophytic.

The first part of the name, dendron, means tree in ancient Greek. The second half of the name is more uncertain in origin but comes from one of two roots: cheilos or chilos, meaning lip and green food, respectively. These terms most likely refer either to the large pseudobulbs at the base of the plant that resemble lips or its preference for growing on trees. The plants are also referred to as chain orchids and Ddc, a shortened form of Dendrochilum.

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The number of Dendrochilum species have not been determined, and anywhere from 100 to 390 species are estimated to exist. Plants of this genus prefer the higher altitudes found in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. Many of the species are endemic to areas in Borneo and the Philippines.

Gardeners who desire a less common orchid species often favor the Dendrochilum genus for its unconventional form and appealing aromatic fragrance. The multitude of tiny flowers are arranged on two stems called inflorescences. The color of the flowers can be creamy white, bright yellow, and deep, crimson red. The individual plants have a tendency to grow in groups, adding to their allure.

When caring for a dendrochilum orchid, it is possible, depending on the species, to attach the plant to a tree if epiphytic or a rock if lithophytic. While most of these orchids are resilient plants, an environment that is consistently sporadic in temperature may cause long-term damage. They need indirect sunlight and shade and thrive in warm temperatures. They should be watered at least once per week, more if the current season is hot and dry or the plant is exposed to prolonged periods of direct sunlight.

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