Phalaenopsis amabilis

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Phalaenopsis amabilis
Phalaenopsis amabilis Orchi 03.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Genus: Phalaenopsis
Subgenus: Phalaenopsis
Species: P. amabilis
Binomial name
Phalaenopsis amabilis
  • Epidendrum amabile L. (basionym)
  • Cymbidium amabile (L.) Roxb.
  • Synadena amabilis (L.) Raf.
  • Phalaenopsis grandiflora Lindl.
  • Phalaenopsis grandiflora var. aurea auct.
  • Phalaenopsis amabilis var. aurea (auct.) Rolfe
  • Phalaenopsis gloriosa Rchb.f.

Phalaenopsis amabilis, commonly known as the moth orchid or moon orchid, is a species of flowering plant in the orchid family Orchidaceae, native to the East Indies and Australia, and widely cultivated as a decorative houseplant.

Taxonomy and nomenclature

It was first discovered on a small island off the east coast of New Guinea by the botanist Georg Eberhard Rumphius in 1653; however, he named it Angraecum album majus[verification needed]. It remained undiscovered until 1825 when Karl Ludwig Blume discovered the same species and gave it the name it is known by presently. This species is usually found in the eastern to southeastern regions of Asia. Plants in this genus are typically widespread in the areas of eastern Asia, such as China and Indonesia.

According to Dressler[citation needed], the plants of this family are thought to be closely related to plants that would have been classified in the Liliaceae or the Amaryllidaceae families. This is the largest flower in the genus. When it was discovered, the name it has now was misapplied because it was constantly mistaken for the P. aphrodite so before it was called P. grandiflora.


Plants of this genus have a uniform structure that makes the identification easy for novice botanists. Phalaenopsis amabilis, like most of the other species in this genus, has a short stem. This is believed to be an adaptation to gain the light requirements needed to grow, according to Christenson[who?]. The rooting of P. amabilis is usually unbranched. The only times it would be branched are if the roots are damaged or if the individual has gotten old in age. The leaves of P. amabilis vary from oblong to elliptic at the base and obtuse, minutely, at the tip or apex and measures at 50 × 10 cm. The moth orchid's flower is showy, membranous, white, the lip, (the unpared petals of an orchid) which is three-lobed, and the callus are a variety of yellow and red depending on the individual plant. It is able to bloom for a long period of time and can grow up to 10 cm in diameter and more.

Phalaenopsis amabilis reproduces sexually through pollination. This plant grows its flower to attract the pollinator. It is generally pollinated by large carpenter bees from the genus Xylocopa. For this particular species in the Phalaenopsis genus the pollination frequency and success rate is high (about 50%).


P. amabilis and the other species in the same genus grow naturally in three distinct habitats. The first is in seasonally dry areas, then seasonally cool areas and last constantly moist or humid areas (Christenson), developing adaptions for each habitat. For the seasonally dry habitats, Phalaenopsis species have an extreme adaptation in which it adopts deciduous habits, losing its leaves. They do this because in dry habitats, leaves are a serious liability when water isn't easily accessible. This adaptation typically occurs in species found outside the Himalayan region. For the habitats that are seasonally cool areas, the species found there are all deciduous or semi-deciduous in nature which means these plants have a strong dormant rest period. In this dormant period, the plants have protection from the cold due to the high carbon to nitrogen ratio and low water content on the leaf tissue. The constantly moist and humid habitats are the most common places that someone can find many of the Phalaenopsis species. In this habitat, the species grow in the canopy evergreen forests. Because they grow in the canopy, the species' adaptation is growing leathery leaves to prevent desiccation and so that the plants can tolerate higher light levels than other species.


P. amabilis is reported to be very easy to grow as a houseplant, as long as attention is paid to a correct feeding and watering regime. It thrives in a domestic temperature range of 17–22 °C (63–72 °F), in bright indirect light such as that offered by an east- or west-facing window. Specialist orchid compost and feed is widely available. Species and cultivars in the genus Phalaenopsis are recommended for beginners.[1]

In cultivation in the UK, Phalaenopsis amabilis has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.[2][3]


Phalaenopsis amabilis (Indonesian: anggrek bulan meaning "moon orchid") is one of the three national flowers in Indonesia, the other two being the sambac jasmine and padma raksasa[4] Officially recognized as national "flower of charm" (Indonesian: puspa pesona) in Presidential Decree No. 4 in 1993,[5]

In China, the orchid stood for refinement, friendship, perfection, numerous progeny, all things feminine, noble, and elegant.


  1. Christenson, Eric A. Phalaenopsis A Monograph. New York: Timber P, Incorporated, 2001.
  2. Reinikka, Merle A. History of the Orchid. Portland, OR: Timber P, 1995.
  3. Van Der Pijl, L., and Calaway H. Dodson. Orchid Flowers/ Their Pollination and Evolution. Harris, NY: C. H. Dodson, 1966.
  4. Dressler, Robert L. Phylogeny and classification of the orchid family. Portland, OR: Dioscorides P, 1993.
  5. Freed, Hugo. Orchids and Serendipity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1970.


  1. ^ "Phalaenopsis Orchid Care Instructions". Organic Gardening Advice. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  2. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Phalaenopsis amabilis". Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  3. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 76. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  4. ^ "ASEAN National Flowers". ASEAN secretariat. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  5. ^ Keputusan Presiden No. 4 Tahun 1993 Archived 2012-04-02 at the Wayback Machine.

External links

  • Media related to Phalaenopsis amabilis at Wikimedia Commons
  • Data related to Phalaenopsis amabilis at Wikispecies
  • KEW gardens: Phalaenopsis amabilis
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