365 days of orchids – day 574 – Dendrobium nobile ‘virginalis’

Dendrobium nolile is one of our favourite species and this week we have the pure white form in full flower. The more usual colour form is shown below.

The plant here flowering near Gangtok in Sikkim shows the natural growth habit. The plant grows long upright pseudobulbs during the warm wet summer months. In their second year these bulbs become less upright and produce heavy flowering in April. In their third year the bulbs are pendulous and produce a few extra flowers and by this time they have lost all their leaves.

The wild plants in Sikkim show a wide range of colour forms and one tree in particular demonstrated the variability of the species with dark forms, light forms, rounded flowers and more pointed flowers but we have yet to find the pure white var.virginalis. (see below) The tree also shows the habitat clearly with plants growing in dappled shade from tall trees and a little moss on the trunk showing that the dry season is far from bone dry here. In fact we found that it rains every few days in the dry season at this altitude 1200m. In cultivation we grow the species in Cool Asia with a minimum of 10C in winter and vents open above 17C. We keep the plants wet in summer and damp in winter, never allowing bulbs to shrivel.

Dendrobium nobile in SikkimThe species is found across a wide range in the Himalayas through to South East Asia. In Arunachal Pradesh (the extreme North Eastern state of India) we have seen the species growing on trees and on rocks as well as fallen plants used to adorn Buddhist temples and gompas. (below)

One of our plants is a real specimen and flowered to its full potential in 2013 when it won a Cultural Certificate from the RHS and produced one of my favourite orchid project photos. The plant may be even better than this next year as it is full of flowering potential now that it has become settled in its larger basket.


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  1. Agnes Jones says:

    What a beautiful place Sikkim must be with all these lovely orchids growing wild.

    How long do the Dendrobiium flowers last for and what pollinates them?
    Is this another ‘bathroom’ orchid?

    • Simon Pugh-Jones says:

      Sikkim should be on everyones ‘must visit’ list. Dendrobium nobile is pollinated by bees and the flowers last for several weeks. I know that many students grow this species successfully on windowsills but for good flowering we have found that it is important that plants get a distinct cooler winter (min 10C with us in Cool Asia)

    • Agnes Jones says:

      Probably a good one for our bathroom then. It is very cold in there in the winter, being an old coal house!

      Thank you