Phalaenopsis pulchra

Family : Orchidaceae

Text © Pietro Puccio


English translation by Mario Beltramini


The species is native to Philippines where it grows in the humid forests close to the water streams, up to about 600 m of altitude.

The generic name is the combination of the Greek substantives “φάλαινα” (phalaina) = butterfly and “ὄψις“ (opsis) = look, with obvious reference; the specific name is the Latin adjective “pulcher, chra, chrum” = beautiful.

Common names: purple orchid (English).

The Phalaenopsis pulchra (Rchb.f.) H.R.Sweet (1968) is an epiphytic species with short stem covered by the imbricate foliar bases and oblong-elliptic fleshy leaves with slightly pointed apex, 12-18 cm long and 5-6 cm broad. Arcuate lateral inflorescences, 10-25 cm long, bearing few fleshy flowers, glossy, of uniform dark magenta colour with yellow spot on the lateral lobes of the labellum, long lasting, about 4 weeks, of 4-5 cm of diameter. Ovate-elliptic sepals with slightly pointed apex, 1,8-2,6 cm long and 1-1,5 cm broad, elliptic to ovate-elliptic petals with more or less pointed apex, 1,6-2,2 cm long and 0,8-1 cm broad. Trilobed labellum, 1,8-2,3 cm long and 1,6-2 cm broad, with oblong erect lateral lobes with truncated apex and flabellate median lobe, fleshy, keeled along the median line and provided of scattered hairs at the centre close to the apex; the column, slightly arcuate, is 0,8-1,2 cm long. It reproduces by seed, in vitro, by micropropagation and at amateurish level through the young plants that easily form on the inflorescence (in slang , “keiki”, meaning in Hawaiian “sons”), that can be removed once a good rooting apparatus is formed.

Phalaenopsis pulchra is a Philippines epiphyte with 12-18 cm leaves and showy flowers, of 4-5 cm of diameter, lasting almost one month © Giuseppe Mazza

Phalaenopsis pulchra is a Philippines epiphyte with 12-18 cm leaves and showy flowers, of 4-5 cm of diameter, lasting almost one month © Giuseppe Mazza

Species with particularly attractive flowers because of the colour and the consistency, requires a luminous exposition, even some hours of direct sun in the morning in winter, intermediate temperatures, 20-32 °C, with lowest night winter values not less than 13 °C and high daily temperature range, high humidity, 75-90%, and constant air movement. The waterings must be regular all over the year, but without stagnations, only slightly more spaced in winter in correspondence of lower temperatures, utilizing rain water, demineralized or by reverse osmosis. Biweekly fertilizations preferably with hydrosoluble balanced products, with microelements, at ¼ the dosage suggested on the package, to be suspended during the winter months. It can be mounted on trunks, pieces of bark, rafts of cork or of roots of arborescent ferns, with sphagnum at the base to maintain the humidity, or cultivated in pots or baskets with draining and aerated compost that may be formed by medium sliced bark fragments and sphagnum with possible addition of inerts; the repottings are to be done by the end of the blooming. With medium temperatures constantly high and low daily temperature range this species tends to produce long stems bearing only keiki, but that, in turn, may bloom on the mother plant; the stems are to be cut only when completely withered.

The species is reported in the appendix II of CITES (species whose trade is internationally ruled).

Synonyms: Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana var. pulchra Rchb.f. (1875); Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana var. purpurea Ames & Quisumb. (1932); Polychilos pulchra (Rchb.f.) Shim (1982).


→ For general notions about ORCHIDACEAE please click here.

→ To appreciate the biodiversity within the family ORCHIDACEAE and find other species, please click here.