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Fun Phalaenopsis Facts

November 22, 2009

At Just Add Ice Orchids we specialize in Phalaenopsis orchids. There are almost 60 different phalaenopsis species, more if you include different varieties within each species. But even if you don't, phalaenopsis species come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Known as "phals" or Moth Orchids, not many of them look like moths in flight, as the Latin name implies.

For example, though the Moon Orchid, phalaenopsis amabilis, and P. aphrodite both have large white petals, and could resemble a big white moth. But phal. amboinensis is more like a tiger-striped flower in yellow and brown, and phal. appendiculata is delicately colored with purple. And that's just the variety in the ones that begin with the letter "a"!

Overall, the color range of this genus includes white, pink, lavender and yellow in both solid colors and mixes of stripes and spots. Many new bold color patterns are beginning to show up in the over 50 man-made hybrids too.

For an idea of the wide variety of colors and shapes, check out this Phalaenopsis A-Z photo chart.  You'll see that some have thin petals in groups of five that end up looking like stick figures, while others have unusual and surprising shapes.

Moth orchids are monopodial plants, which means they're "one footed" and grow as a single stem with each new growth originating from the apex (top) of the plant. Their growth is characterized by the unlimited growth in length of the stem, combined with the entire absence of pseudobulbs. Leaves are distichous, meaning they alternate in two opposite ranks, and are flat and keeled on back side.

Phals, as they are more commonly called, range from India, through Southeast Asia, north to the Philippines, and South to Northern Australia. The species are epiphytic, which means they growing on other plants, or lithophytic, growing on rocks, and inhabit areas from sea level to 1,000 feet.