Dockrillia teretifolia

pencil orchid


Dockrillia teretifolia

(R.Br.) Brieger 1981

pronounced: dok-RILL-ee-uh ter-ree-tee-FOH-lee-uh

(Orchidaceae — the orchid family)

synonym — Dendrobium teretifolium

R.Br. 1810

pronounced: den-DROH-bee-um ter-ree-tee-FOH-lee-um

common names: pencil orchid, bridal veil orchid

native 4Although the name Dockrillia was established as far back as 1981, it is only in recent years that the name has been resurrected. It refers to Alick Dockrill, a contemporary Australian orchidologist. The genus Dockrillia has been split off from Dendrobium and is made up of the orchids with more-or-less cylindrically shaped leaves. This revision has generally been accepted in Australia, but not always elsewhere. Many overseas orchidologists still know the plant by the synonym. Teretifolia is from the Latin teretus circular, and folium, a leaf.

Dockrillia consists of some 28 species, 17 in Australia and the others in Timor, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa and Tahiti. The genus crosses easily with Dendrobium, forming a ‘family’ of hybrids known to orchid growers as Dockrilobium. Dockrillia are epiphytes or lithophytes growing in the rainforest verges and creek margins on the Queensland east coast. Dockrillia teretifolia has various growth forms, var. farfaxii and var. aureum being the most common. The flowers are spidery in appearance, are of various sizes, and range in colour from white and cream to golden yellow, with purple stripes near the base. It is the white-flowered varieties that are commonly called ‘Bridal Veil’. The principal flowering time is from August to November. The leaves are pendant and ungrooved, and grow to about 60 cm long by 8 mm thick. The stems branch regularly, zig-zagging at each branch, giving this orchid a distinctive appearance even when it is not in flower.

Orchids are abundant from Townsville to Cooktown in areas of rainforest, open forest, mangroves, mountain tops and even eucalypt-dominated forests. This diversity in habitat has resulted in the rich diversity of orchids. Because of the widespread interest in these plants, they are collected by many people, sometimes resulting in significant decreases in the number of orchids growing in the wild. Protection is afforded to some extent by the National Parks and the World Heritage Area, but it must be realized that merely declaring an area a National Park does not stop collectors from removing plants.

In the Wet Tropics rainforests to our north, many large epiphyte orchids occur on the larger trunks and forks, but the real diversity is often in the small branches of the outer canopy. As well, terrestrial species such as the Jewel Orchid may be abundant on the forest floor where there are rocks, or on slopes where there is good drainage, or on the banks of small streams. There are some 230 species of orchids in this region, between a quarter and a third of Australia’s orchids.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2009, 2011
Page last updated 14th December 2018