Cover image for Phalaenopsis : a monograph
Phalaenopsis : a monograph
Christenson, Eric A., 1956-
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Publication Information:
Portland, Or. : Timber Press, 2001.
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330 pages, 64 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
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QK495.O64 C39 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Without a doubt, the most widely grown orchids in the world are the species and hybrids of Phalaenopsis , the "moth orchids." Since their discovery by western botanists in the 18th century, phalaenopsis were considered aristocrats even among orchids and were eagerly sought out by the most discerning -- and wealthy -- of collectors. With advances in orchid propagation and breeding in the middle 20th century, however, these orchids became accessible and affordable to anyone with an eye for exceptional beauty. Few floriculture crops have swamped the marketplace as suddenly as phalaenopsis has in recent years, with millions of plants being produced for the mass market annually. Moth orchids have helped eliminate the misconception of orchids as temperamental conservatory plants only for the very rich. In the words of author Eric Christenson, we are witnessing "the makings of an orchid revolution."

Against this backdrop of change and ferment, Christenson set out to write a definitive monograph of the genus Phalaenopsis , the first thorough treatment since Herman Sweet's revision in 1969. Focusing mainly on the forebears of today's omnipresent hybrids -- the species -- he always keeps an eye on the characteristics that species might bring to today's hybridization programs. With extensive keys and detailed reviews of the taxonomy of the genus, Christenson provides a thorough picture of the current scientific understanding of these remarkable plants.

In addition to its scientific content, this book offers a wealth of practical information for the orchid hobbyist. A useful chapter on cultivation techniques is included, as is a chapter on hybrids in their many forms, shapes, and colors. More than 200 color photos and 60 drawings enliven the work and provide a fascinating visual overview.

With the full sponsorship and support of the International Phalaenopsis Alliance, Christenson has written an extraordinary book reflecting years of botanical research and horticultural experience with the genus. No orchid specialist will want to be without it.

Author Notes

Eric A. Christenson is a research taxonomist with strong interests in the Aeridinae, neotropical floristics, and the conservation of horticultural plants. He is the coordinator of the orchid treatment for the Flora of the Guianas and has done field work in both Guyana and French Guiana for the Vascular Plants of Central French Guiana. He is also actively assisting David Bennett of Lima, Peru, with a modern inventory of Peruvian orchids; to date they have published 600 illustrations, including more than 100 new species, as Icones Orchidacearum Peruviarum. A prolific author, Christenson is known for his articles, which attempt to bridge the gap between taxonomy and horticulture, as well as his indepth book reviews; he lives in Sarasota, Florida, where he is currently completing a monumental encyclopedia of orchid species for the American Orchid Society

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The haunting beauty and bewitching form of orchid flowers attract throngs of curious amateur gardeners along with serious horticulturists. Now that do-it-yourself home stores as well as specialty nurseries sell living plants, orchid growers need the benefit of up-to-date manuals to help correctly identify specimens and clarify their cultural requirements. These comprehensive books offer plenty of expert guidance, and an enlivening enthusiasm. Christenson devoted decades to the study of phalaenopsis orchids, and his definitive work promises to enlighten aficionados. While Christenson's monograph takes the form of a scholarly study, its detailed breakdown of subspecies, extensive color photographs, and engaging plant descriptions should fascinate newcomers who purchase millions of these plants yearly. Committed hobbyists and professionals involved in breeding hybrids will also find a wealth of stimulating data to assist in the cultivation of these distinctive plants. In Lavarack's lavishly illustrated guide, gardeners at all levels who wish to successfully grow dendrobium orchids and related plants will be pleased to find information on more than 400 species. The book's contributors offer valuable background by pointing out threatened and widespread species, discussing nomenclature, and pondering the origins of plants and their uses. An overview of plant habitats provides a compelling context for the book's encyclopedic listing of species. In the world of horticulture, the popular dendrobiums are well served by this beautifully produced new resource. Alice Joyce

Choice Review

With years of experience in orchid research and a very strong academic background, Christenson (New York Botanical Garden) has brought to completion a long-needed revision of the genus Phalaenopsis. The species in this genus are the most widely grown orchids in the world and are produced in very large numbers for today's floricultural market. The introductory chapters give the history of the genus since the late 18th century and the ecology, distribution, and the vegetative and floral morphology of its plants. A chapter on generic and infrageneric classification and taxonomy follows. The next five chapters form the main section of the book and describe the species as organized by subgenera. Keys and all the necessary descriptive information needed to separate the species, including line drawings and more than 200 well-printed color photographs, are provided in these chapters. The last four chapters offer practical information for the orchid hobbyist on cultivation, conservation, hybrids, and what future research might offer. Very extensive bibliography; index to plant names. Highly recommended for all libraries interested in maintaining currency in the orchid literature. General readers; graduate students; faculty and researchers. L. G. Kavaljian California State University, Sacramento



In nature, Phalaenopsis occurs mostly in three distinct habitats: seasonally dry areas, seasonally cool areas, and constantly moist or humid areas. The plants show adaptations to each of these. Phalaenopsis species that grow in monsoonal areas with a pronounced wet and dry cycle have adapted to the stress of the dry season in several ways. One method of adapatation is to become directly adapted to xerophytic conditions by increased succulence. This may be the approach taken by P. cornu-cervi and related species, which have much thicker leaves and roots than other species of similar vegetative size. Unsubstantiated reports claim that in at least part of its range P. cornu-cervi is semideciduous, dropping a portion of its leaves toward the end of the dry season as a final response to extreme dessication. Certainly a precedent for this survival strategy exists in related genera such as Aerides and Vanda. This may not be a direct adaptation to seasonal dryness, however, because P. pantherina, a sister species to P. cornu-cervi, is recorded from high in the forest canopy, where it is exposed to bright diffuse light unlike most of the other species in Borneo, which occur toward the base of trees under low-light conditions. This increased succulence may simply be a response to degree of exposure independent of seasonal dryness.The most extreme form of adaptation seem in Phalaenopsis species native to seasonally dry habitats is a deciduous habit. Leaves are the primary route by which water is transpired from a plant; as such, they are a significant liability during drought conditions, and their loss is a common adaptation to a seasonally severe water deficit. This adaptation is seen in several primarily Himalayan groups of Phalaenopsis, including subgenera Aphyllae, Parishianae, and Proboscidioides. Not surprisingly, this extreme adaptation is not seen in those members of the genus with centers of distribution outside of the Himalayan region, where the wet-dry cycle is less pronounced. While the species in these three subgenera may retain some leaves during the dry season, and usually do so under the mild conditions offered by horticulture, in most cases all their leaves are shed over the course of the dry season. Excerpted from Phalaenopsis: A Monograph by Eric A. Christenson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. 9
Acknowledgmentsp. 11
Chapter 1. Historyp. 15
Chapter 2. Ecology and Distributionp. 19
Chapter 3. Morphologyp. 26
Chapter 4. Generic and Infrageneric Classification and Taxonomyp. 35
Chapter 5. Subgenus Proboscidioidesp. 39
Chapter 6. Subgenus Aphyllaep. 46
Chapter 7. Subgenus Parishianaep. 63
Chapter 8. Subgenus Polychilosp. 76
Chapter 9. Subgenus Phalaenopsisp. 183
Chapter 10. Cultivationp. 249
Chapter 11. Conservationp. 271
Chapter 12. Hybridsp. 276
Chapter 13. The Futurep. 292
Bibliographyp. 294
Index to Plant Namesp. 321