The controversial Denphal orchid


Denphal orchid
Denphal orchid

These beautiful flowers in different colors, arranged around elegant stems that rise above hard cane shaped pseudobulbs, make this hybrid orchid, popularly known as Denphal, a case of success among orchid lovers. The Denphal orchid can be found in a wide variety of sizes and colors. Its flowering presents a good durability, lasting for some months. Its popularization made it possible to find this orchid everywhere, from elegant flower shops to garden centers and grocery stores. 

However, many still have doubts about who is, in fact, the Denphal orchid. In this article, I try to clarify some myths regarding this hybrid orchid. 

Known by everyone as Denphal or Denphalen, this poor orchid is the victim of a series of misunderstandings and polemics. The fusion of the prefixes 'Den' and 'Phal' leads many to believe that it is a hybrid resulting from the cross between Dendrobium and Phalaenopsis. However, this is not true. Due to the large genetic differences between these two genera of orchids, it could never be possible to exist a viable descendant of this mixture.


Denphal orchid
Denphal orchid

The unfortunate nickname arose due to the fact that Denphal is an orchid with the vegetative aspect of a typical Dendrobium, with the cane-shaped pseudobulbs. On the other hand, it also produces a flowering reminiscent of that the Phalaenopsis orchid presents, composed of a long stem bearing moth-shaped flowers.

However, nobody is obliged to know that it is impossible to cross Dendrobium with Phalaenopsis. It’s a technical matter. Besides that, the name Denphal does not help to clarify this polemic.

The fact is that the Denphal orchid is simply a hybrid Dendrobium. To increase the confusion, the main species of Dendrobium in the genealogy of most of the hybrids known as Denphal is Dendrobium phalaenopsis, described in 1880. Yes, there is a native species with this name! Subsequently, they changed its classification to Dendrobium bigibbum.

To summarize all this confusion, the important thing is to know that Denphal is not the result of the crossing between Dendrobium and Phalaenopsis. Also, it does not refer to the species Dendrobium phalaenopsis described in the nineteenth century.

Denphal is only a mixture of several species, with a strong participation of Dendrobium bigibbum. The term Denphal is very popular among the consumers and is widely used among orchid traders. 

Many orchid enthusiasts refuse even to admit that there is a Denphal orchid. The fact is that this is a popular name, as well as 'doll eye orchid', the nickname of another hybrid Dendrobium (nobile related) quite common in the Brazilian market. Ignoring popular names and staying on a pedestal only makes it more difficult to disseminate information about orchids among the general public. It only harms sales and complicates the communication between lovers of these beautiful flowers.


Denphal orchid
Denphal orchid

The flowers of the Denphal orchids that illustrate this article are a result of the opening of some buds I’ve been watching for a few months. Unlike most orchids, whose floral buds resemble American footballs, those of the genus Dendrobium have a peculiar shape, which reminds me an abstract sculpture.

There are a Portuguese version of this article here: Orquídea Denphal.