1. Family: Orchidaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Dendrobium Sw.
      1. Dendrobium nobile Lindl.

        Dendrobium nobile was not described until 1830, yet has become possibly the most well-known of all dendrobiums, due to its popularity as an ornamental. There are a number of varieties in cultivation, including Dendrobium nobile var. virginale, which has white flowers with a yellowish green centre to the lip. Another commonly cultivated variety is Dendrobium nobile var. cooksonianum, in which the petals resemble the lip, each having a rich maroon-purple velvety blotch in the basal half.

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    The dependable noble dendrobium is one of the most popular epiphytic orchids in cultivation.

    Dendrobium nobile was not described until 1830, yet has become possibly the most well-known of all dendrobiums, due to its popularity as an ornamental. There are a number of varieties in cultivation, including Dendrobium nobile var. virginale, which has white flowers with a yellowish green centre to the lip. Another commonly cultivated variety is Dendrobium nobile var. cooksonianum, in which the petals resemble the lip, each having a rich maroon-purple velvety blotch in the basal half.

    This species was first known from China and was later imported for cultivation into Europe from India. Many horticultural varieties of this species were named in the 19th century. The specific epithet 'nobile' means noble, and the common name 'noble dendrobium' is sometimes used, although hardly needed as the Latin name is so well known.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    This species occurs largely in deciduous forests between 1,500 and 2,000 m elevation in the foothills of the Himalayas and surrounding areas. It is recorded from India, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Laos and Vietnam. It prefers bright sunlight, which is provided by deciduous trees which lose their leaves in the autumn.

    Description

    The pseudobulbs (bulb-like above-ground stems) of Dendrobium nobileare swollen at the nodes, giving a jointed appearance, and grow up to 60 cm long in upright clusters. The leaves are bright green, strap-shaped and slightly leathery. Leaves are borne alternately at nodes along most of the length of the stem.

    The fragrant, waxy flowers are 5-7 cm in diameter and are variable in colour. The base of the petals is pale pink or white, grading into a stronger amethyst-purple colour towards the tip. The lip is velvety with a rich maroon-purple basal part, surrounded by a paler yellowish white area. The flowers normally appear in late winter to spring and can last up to six weeks.

    Uses

    Dendrobium nobileis an immensely popular ornamental orchid; plant breeders have raised numerous cultivars with showy inflorescences.

    It is also valued in traditional Chinese medicine. It is used to nourish and stimulate the stomach. A tea made from the stems of this and other Dendrobiumspecies is taken for complaints such as fever, sunstroke and excessive perspiration.

    Scientists have isolated several compounds from the stem and leaves, including dendrobine, dendroxine, dendrin and other alkaloids. Phenanthrenes from Dendrobium nobilehave shown anti-tumour activity in laboratory tests on cancer cells. Sesquiterpene glycosides isolated from the stem affect lymphocyte cells, indicating possible immunomodulatory effects. Gigantol isolated from Dendrobium nobilehas shown antimutagenic properties.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault at Wakehurst Place.

    Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank:TwoSeed storage behaviour:Orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive being dried without significantly reducing their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)

    Cultivation

    This species is considered to be durable and dependable and hence has become very popular in cultivation. Although known as a 'beginner's orchid' there are a few key points to follow to get the best results. Plants should be placed in a basket containing a medium that is free draining, yet can retain moisture. They should be sited where they can receive full sunlight. In order to ensure the best flowers are produced in the spring, plants should not be watered or fertilised during the winter. When the plant begins to bloom, regular watering and fertilisation can be resumed. Aerial shoots produced from the plant can be used for propagating new plants.

    Dendrobium nobileis grown in Kew's Tropical Nursery (one of the behind-the-scenes areas). Plants are placed in the smallest pot that the roots will fit in, as the plants do best when 'tight' in a pot. Larger plants are kept in wooden-slatted hanging baskets. Kew's standard epiphytic orchid mix (three parts bark, two parts pumice and one part charcoal) is used as the substrate. Plants are kept damp when in growth, but allowed to dry during the dormant period (when feeding and temperature are also reduced), before flowering. The plants are shaded from direct sunlight in the summer, but given as much light as possible during the winter.

    This species at Kew

    Dendrobium nobileis grown in the Tropical Nursery, which is not accessible to the public. The plant has featured in Kew's Tropical Extravaganza festivals in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

    Distribution
    Cambodia, India, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam
    Ecology
    Epiphytic in seasonal deciduous forest in the foothills of the Himalayas and elsewhere, at altitudes of between 1500 and 2000 m.
    Conservation
    This species is widespread in the foothills of the Himalayas and not currently a conservation concern.
    Hazards

    None known.

    [KSP]
    Use
    Ornamental, medicinal.

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

    Assam, Bangladesh, China South-Central, China Southeast, East Himalaya, Hainan, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Tibet, Vietnam

    Introduced Into:

    Hawaii

    Common Names

    English
    Noble dendrobium

    Dendrobium nobile Lindl. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Nov 15, 2002 Dorji, Y. [55], Bhutan 62643.000
    17983.000
    Kerr, A.F.G. [0966], Laos K000596526
    Kerr, A.F.G. [s.n.], Laos K000596527
    19860.000
    19861.000
    19862.000
    19863.000
    19864.000
    19865.000
    19866.000
    19867.000
    Vietnam 51201.000

    First published in Gen. Sp. Orchid. Pl.: 79 (1830)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] (2016) Turczaninowia 19: 5-58
    • [2] (2013) Nordic Journal of Botany 31: 511-550
    • [3] (2012) Korean Journal of Plant Taxonomy 42: 222-246
    • [4] (2012) Orchids; the Magazine of the American Orchid Society 81: 88-93
    • [5] (2009) Flora of China 25: 1-570. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis
    • [6] Raskoti, B.B. (2009) The Orchids of Nepal . Bhakta Bahadur Raskoti and Rita Ale
    • [7] (2007) The Journal of the Orchid Society of India 21: 35-49
    • [8] Lucksom, S.Z. (2007) The orchids of Sikkim and North East Himalaya . S.Z.Lucksom, India
    • [9] Wood, H.P. (2006) The Dendrobiums . A.R.G. Gantner Verlag K.G., Ruggell
    • [11] Govaerts, R. (2003) World Checklist of Monocotyledons Database in ACCESS . The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

    Literature

    • [10] Wood, H.P. (2006). The Dendrobiums  A.R.G. Gantner Verlag. p.58-65.
    • [12] Xinrong Y. (2003). Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Manual from A-Z. Springer, Berlin.
    • [13] Zhao, W., Ye, Q., Tan, X., Jiang, H., Li, X., Chen, K. & Kinghorn, A.D. (2001). Three new sesquiterpene glycosides from Dendrobium nobile with immunomodulatory activity. Journal of Natural Products 64: 1196–1200.
    • [14] Lavarack, B., Harris, W. & Stocker, G. (2000). Dendrobium and its relatives. Timber Press. p.150.
    • [15] Miyazawa M., Shimamura H., Nakamura, S.-I. & Kameoka H. (1997). Antimutagenic activity of gigantol from Dendrobium nobile. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 45: 2849–2853.
    • [16] Lee, Y. H., Park, J.D., Beak, N.I., Kim, S.I. & Ahn, B.Z. (1995). In vitro and in vivo antitumoral phenanthrenes from the aerial parts of Dendrobium nobile. Planta Medica 61: 178-180.
    • [17] Schelpe, S. & Stewart, J. (1990). Dendrobiums: an introduction to the species in cultivation. Orchid Sundries Ltd. p.24-25.
    • [18] Perry, L.M. & Metzger, J. (1980). Medicinal Plants of East and Southeast Asia: Attributed Properties and Uses. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    Sources

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
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