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Genus Dendrobium Family Orchidaceae

Synonyms: Thelychiton Endl. APNI*
Australorchis Brieger APNI*
Tetrabaculum M.A.Clem. & D.L.Jones APNI*
Tropilis Raf. APNI*
Dockrillia Brieger APNI*
Aporopsis (Schltr.) M.A.Clem. & D.L.Jones APNI*
Cepobaculum M.A.Clem. & D.L.Jones APNI*
Ceratobium (Lindl.) M.A.Clem. & D.L.Jones APNI*
Coelandria Fitzg. APNI*
Davejonesia M.A.Clem. APNI*
Dichopus Blume APNI*
Durabaculum M.A.Clem. & D.L.Jones APNI*
Eleutheroglossum (Schltr.) M.A.Clem. & D.L.Jones APNI*
Grastidium Blume APNI*
Trachyrhizum (Schltr.) Brieger APNI*
Vappodes M.A.Clem. & D.L.Jones APNI*
Stilbophyllum D.L.Jones & M.A.Clem. APNI*
Monanthos (Schltr.) Brieger APNI*
Leioanthum M.A.Clem. & D.L.Jones APNI*
Ceraia Lour. APNI*

Description: Epiphytic, epilithic or rarely terrestrial herbs, sympodial; roots creeping over the surface of the substrate or aerial or rarely subterranean, usually fibrous. Stems slender and undifferentiated or differentiated into rhizome and pseudobulb; pseudobulb of several to many internodes, usually cane-like.

Leaves tufted at apex of shoot or apparently terminal [or scattered along the pseudobulb], 1–6 [or many] per shoot, distichous, conduplicate or flattened or terete [or laterally flattened].

Inflorescence racemose, 1–many-flowered, lateral but often subterminal or apparently terminal; flowers resupinate or not. Dorsal sepal free, similar to lateral sepals. Lateral sepals united basally to each other and to column foot forming a mentum, otherwise free. Lateral petals free, usually slightly smaller [or larger] than dorsal sepal. Labellum free, hinged to the tip of the column foot; lamina obscurely to distinctly 3-lobed, usually bearing 1–7 longitudinal keels. Column lacking free filament and style; column wings fused to column, reduced to teeth that project beside the anther. Column foot usually as long as or longer than the column itself. Anther incumbent, cap-like. Pollinia 4, waxy. Stigma entire. Rostellum not prominent, ventral.

Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 1400 spp., Asia (as far west as India and as far north as Korea), Melanesia, Aust. & N.Z. Aust.: 71 spp. (52 spp. endemic), all States except S.A.

Molecular phylogenetic analyses (e.g. Yukawa et al. 2000, pp. 465-471 in Monocots: Systematics and Evolution; Clements 2003, Telopea 10: 247-298) resolve genera traditionally allied with Dendrobium, including Cadetia, Dockrillia, Epigenium and Flinkringia nested within Dendrobium. The two alternative solutions to this problem of Dendrobium paraphyly have both been proposed in the last couple of decades, one proposal is to retain a broadly circumscribed Dendrobium by including these segregate genera, the other to subdivide Dendrobium to retain the segregates. To date, proposals to subdivide Dendrobium have not been without problems of their own, and have not been widely adopted as a result. The National Herbarium of New South Wales accepts a broadly circumscribed Dendrobium, including Dockrilla and other segregates.

Several Australian species, including D. speciosum, D. striolatum, D. teretifolium and D. tetragonum exhibit morphological variation, which may be ecologically and/or geographically structured. In each of these species complexes, variation has been subject to different interpretations, with components being recognised as separate taxa, at species rank in some proposed classifications or as sub-species or varieties in others. To date, data allowing an empirical assessment of the observed variation has only been presented for D. speciosum, and supports the interpretation of this complex as a single species that expresses geographically structured morphological variation. For the other species complexes, while there is no doubt that differences among individuals exist in each case, whether those differences reflect separate species status has not been addressed empirically. Therefore, we adopt a conservative stance on species circumscription, which follows established precident and generally recognises morphotypes in New South Wales as varieties. Publication of empirical evidence supporting separate species status for these varieties will result in their being recognised as such.

Text by P. H. Weston, updated by Matt A.M. Renner (23 October 2020).
Taxon concept: P. H. Weston (1993, Flora of New South Wales vol. 4)

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Dendrobium moorei,    Dendrobium speciosum,    Dendrobium teretifolium,    Dendrobium tetragonum,    Dendrobium x delicatum,    Dendrobium x gracillimum,    Dendrobium x suffusum

 Key to the species 
1Leaves succulent, circular in cross section or more or less flattened; stems wiry throughout their length; flowers not resupinate (i.e. labellum uppermost in flower)2
Leaves thin to leathery, conduplicate; stems swollen for at least part of their length; flowers resupinate (i.e. labellum lowermost in flower)11
2Leaves ellipsoid to obloid or elliptic to oblong to obovate or ovate3
leaves linear, terete
                       Back to 1
3Leaves ellipsoid to obloid, tuberculate, resembling small gherkinsDendrobium cucumerinum
Leaves flattened, not tuberculate
                       Back to 2
4Leaves elliptic to oblong to obovate, longitudinally furrowed on top; inflorescences 6–20-flowered; sepals and lateral petals white to cream; plant prostrateDendrobium linguiforme
Leaves flattened-ovate, attenuate, smooth; inflorescences 1–3-flowered; sepals and lateral petals green to brown; plant pendent
                       Back to 3
Dendrobium pugioniforme
5Tepal tips filiform; leaves not furrowed, 10–100 cm long6
Tepal tips acute to obtuse; leaves shallowly to deeply furrowed, 1.5–16 cm long
                       Back to 2
6Axillary buds prominently protruding, conical; inflorescence 4–15-floweredDendrobium teretifolium var. teretifolium
Axillary buds not protruding or protruding slightly, flat to rounded; inflorescence 1–7-flowered
                       Back to 5
7Flower predominantly yellow; dorsal sepal 2.5–5 cm longDendrobium teretifolium var. aureum
Flower predominantly white to cream; dorsal sepal 2–3.5 cm long
                       Back to 6
Dendrobium teretifolium var. fairfaxii (F.Muell. & Fitzg.) F.M.Bailey
8Leaves erectDendrobium schoeninum
Leaves pendent
                       Back to 5
9Midlobe of labellum triangular to ovate; plants epilithicDendrobium striolatum
Midlobe of labellum subcircular to subflabelliform; plants epiphytic
                       Back to 8
10Labellum white with green keels and a few purple blotches at the apex of the disc; sepals and lateral petals recurved near their apicesDendrobium mortii
Labellum white; sepals and lateral petals not recurved near their apices
                       Back to 9
Dendrobium bowmanii
11Upper half of stem swollen, square in cross section; basal half of stem thin and wiry12
Stem circular or elliptic in cross section, not wiry; sepals and lateral petals linear to oblong or triangular
                       Back to 1
12Dorsal sepal 19–30 mm long; labellum 6–8 mm wideDendrobium tetragonum var. tetragonum
Dorsal sepal 38–60 mm long; labellum 7–9 mm wide
                       Back to 11
Dendrobium tetragonum var. melaleucaphilum
13Inflorescences 20–70 cm long, 20–200-flowered14
Inflorescences 5–17 cm long, 2–30-flowered
                       Back to 11
14Stems thickest near the base, tapering towards the tip; basket roots absent; dorsal sepal 20–40 mm long; inflorescences 20–115-floweredDendrobium speciosum var. speciosum
Stems thickest near the middle, tapering to both ends; basket roots present; dorsal sepal 16–28 mm long; inflorescences 90–200-flowered
                       Back to 13
Dendrobium speciosum var. hillii
15Dorsal sepal more than 4 times as long as broadDendrobium aemulum
Dorsal sepal less than 4 times as long as broad
                       Back to 13
16Dorsal sepal 30–40 mm long; midlobe of labellum incurvedDendrobium falcorostrum
Dorsal sepal 4–16 mm long; midlobe of labellum recurved or vestigial
                       Back to 15
17Stems more or less linear to cylindrical, 17–60 cm longDendrobium gracilicaule
Stems ovoid to linear to ovoid or broad-ellipsoid, 1–30 cm long
                       Back to 16
18Dorsal sepal 9–16 mm long; flowers white to pink to purple and the labellum nearly always strongly marked with darker purpleDendrobium kingianum
Dorsal sepal 4–7 mm long; flowers yellow to yellowish green, sometimes the sepals with pink or red margins
                       Back to 17
19Stems with 1 or rarely 2 leaves at apex, clearly differentiated into a basal, prostrate, freely rooting rhizomatous portion and an upper erect, rootless portion that is ovoid to narrow-ovoid, 2–10 cm longDendrobium monophyllum
Stems usually with 2 leaves at apex, lacking a distinct rhizomatous portion, thickest about the middle, rooting only at the base, 1–2.5 cm long
                       Back to 18
Dendrobium schneiderae

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