An orchid where the expression of its form seems to defy gravity … Dendrobium papilio. These images, where the luminous white flower appears to “float” in the air are NOT a trick of lighting or photographic angle. This unique orchid, native to the Philippines, has incredibly slender canes that can reach nearly three feet (1m) tall. When I say slender: I mean about a third of the thickness of a standard pencil. Each sizable bloom — as wide as the palm of my (small) hand — is still gracefully supported in mid-air.
I cannot think of another orchid that compares.
The green leaves on the thin stems are also comparably thin. Remarkably, the canes do not need staking to stay upright, except if heavy with flowers, though sometimes a support is used to keep them a bit more orderly.
There are two possible sources for the name (papilio) of this orchid. One is the floating, butterfly-like shape of the flower. The other is the bud. It distinctly resembles a butterfly chrysalis, a very unique shape for an orchid flower bud. See the image below!
More “orchid portraits” are available on my orchid-growing website, An Essence of Orchids. If you enjoy unique and dramatic flower photography, I regularly post my images of “what’s in bloom” on Twitter. As well as share some of the adventures from our orchid growing …
I do wish to add that this orchid species is not an easy growing “house plant” like many other orchids. In the wild, it grows in misty moss forest at higher elevations. Which means that Dendrobium papilio is a humidity-lover. We grow our plants in our dedicated orchid LED grow light cool room with 50F (10C) nights in the winter, and summer high temperatures in the mid 80s (29C). Humidity is usually about 60-70%. Dendrobium papilio grows very well with other orchid species from similar habitat in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.