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Dendrobium crumenatum Sw. 1799
pronounced: den-DROH-bee-um kru-men-AH-tum
(Orchidaceae – the orchid family)
common names: Dove Orchid, Pigeon Orchid, Bag-shaped Dendrobium
Dendrobium is derived from the Greek δενδρον (dendron), a tree, and βιος (bios), life – tree of life. Crumenatum is from the Latin crumena, a purse. The reason for the common bird names is fairly obvious if you take a close look at the flower.
This is a plant of the semi-deciduous lowland forests of the Chinese Himalayas, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, much of south-east Asia, the East Indies, New Guinea, the Christmas Islands, and the Philippines, growing in elevations of up to 500 m. There are many examples of the plant on the island. The plants are not particularly noticeable until they flower, and they are in full flower only for a day or so at a time. The bloom cycle seems to be triggered by a sudden fall in temperature (at least 5.5ºC), usually as a result of rain. The same effect can be artificially created in greenhouses.
The orchid is an epiphyte. The stems are swollen basally for a few nodes, ridged, yellow with age, often branching, carrying 4–19 thick, leathery, eventually deciduous leaves. Flowers are borne on the upper nodes of the leafless older canes, with several to many flowers on each. The flowers, each 5 cm or less in length, are white with a yellow-tinted throat, and are fragrant.
The plant has a tendency to keiki, and when the babies have developed a little they can be broken away from the parent plant and mounted to a small branch. This species is often found in conjunction with ants, and may benefit from their presence.
In some of the Malay states, the plant is associated with spiritual beliefs. It is planted in front of the house, usually near the entrance door, as a talisman for protection: to ward off evil forces from entering the house.
In Malacca the pounded leaves are applied as a healing ointment to pimples and boils.
In Java the leaves are ground and used as an ingredient for a medicine to treat cholera. On the same island the fruits, along with those of other orchids (Plocoglottis javanica, Bulbophyllum vaginatum and Hippeophyllum scortechnii), are boiled, and the juice inserted into the ears to treat earache.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2010
Page last updated 12th November 2016