Dendrobium nycteridoglossum

Family : Orchidaceae

Text © Prof. Pietro Pavone


English translation by Mario Beltramini


Dendrobium nycteridoglossum Rchb.f., (1886) is a species of the family Orchidaceae, subfamily Epidendroideae, tribe Malaxideae, subtribe Dendrobiinae, endemic to the south-eastern extremity of the Malay peninsula (Terengganu) and of the island of Borneo (Sarawak, Sabah Kalimantan). It mainly grows in the tropical humid bioma and is found as epiphyte in the sandy forests at altitudes from 900 to 1500 m.

This species was described by Johannes Jacobus Smith (1867-1947) as Dendrobium babiense in Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 48:98 (19C12), but after subsequent investigations has been considered as identical to one already described by Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach (1823-1889) in Gardeners’ Chronicle London 26:616 (1886) as Dendrobium nycteridoglossum on a specimen coming from Papua sent to him by Jean Jules Linden (1817-1898). Consequently nowadays its valid name is the latter.

Dendrobium nycteridoglossum is an epiphyte endemic of the south-eastern tip of the Malay Peninsula and of Borneo.

Dendrobium nycteridoglossum is an epiphyte endemic of the south-eastern tip of the Malay Peninsula and of Borneo © Giuseppe Mazza

The name of the genus is the combination of the Greek adjectives “δένδρον” (dendron), tree and “βίος” (bios), life, for the numerous species that live on the trees getting nourishment from the humid atmosphere, typical to the equatorial forests. The specific name refers to the shape of the labellum that resembles a bat of the genus Nycteris.

The common name is Babi dendrobium, from Batu Babi, place in Kalimantan, Indonesian part of Borneo island, where it has been found the species that Smith described as Dendrobium babiense.

Dendrobium nycteridoglossum is a medium-sized epiphyte, usually hanging, with pseudobulbs on a rhizome having thin roots.

This species, together with 86 more, is included in the section Aporum Lindley (1850) of the genus Dendrobium.

The species of the section are characterized by leafy stems, initially erect then pendulous, bearing leaves with an acute apex, overlapped root, and laterally flattened. The blooming is usually lateral with short short-lasting small flowers. The labellum is not mobile. The species of this section are found in India, in the South-east Asian continental, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea.

Initially, in 1825, these species were considered as belonging to the genus Aporum by Carl Ludwig von Blume (1796-1862), but in 1859 John Lindley (1799-1865) united them in the specific section Aporum of the genus Dendrobium.

Dendrobium nycteridoglossum distinguishes from the related species for its characteristic “shaped like a bat” labellum, from where the apt name given by Reichenbach who has expressed himself life this: “This lip is quite of a new form, as I know of no species with a similar one”.

This species has long (up to 1 m) stems, compressed, covered by foliar sheaths at the base, and by leaves only in the median part. The leaves, usually overlapped, are glabrous, ensiform, acute, coriaceous, 4,5-5 cm long. The inflorescences are short racemes and take form, in autumn, in the apical part of the stems devoid of leaves from nodes covered by small bracts, by means of a meristematic zone forming very small (0,5 cm) flowers, resupinate, green, streaked with red, solitary, lasting few days, but opening simultaneously with those of the other plants of the same species present in the immediate surroundings.

The lateral sepals are 0,4 cm long, cognate at the base, and widen towards the tips, together with the labellum and at the foot of the column forming a small spur called mentum. The dorsal sepal, of ovate-triangular shape, is free, usually smaller than the lateral sepals. The petals are free, spatulate, often smaller than the dorsal sepal, and they too form a small spur (mentum).

The elegant tiny flower of Dendrobium nycteridoglossum measures about half a centimeter.

The stems are even 1 m long, but the elegant flower, with an odd labellum shaped like a bat, measures just half a centimetre © Giuseppe Mazza

The labellum, of pale green colour and dark green on the disc, is clawed, sessile, expanded, 0,45 cm long and 0,55 cm broad, trilobate, fleshy with linear callus, thickened and with glands on the surface. The column is short with truncated apex, the anther has a hood and the staminodes are prominent. The pollinaria are four, small, globular, yellowish. The gymnostemium is 0,13 cm long. The ovary is pedicellate and is 0,63 cm long.

Dendrobium nycteridoglossum is a species protected from the trade and as such it is inserted in the Appendix II of the Washington Convention (CITES) that has the aim to protect the animal and vegetable species under risk of extinction, forbidding their export and detention.

Synonyms: Aporum nycteridoglossum (Rchb.f.) Rauschert (1983); Aporum babiense (J.J.Sm.) Rauschert (1983); Dendrobium babiense J.J.Sm. (1912).


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