Australian Tropical Rainforest Orchids

Vappodes bigibba

Mauve Butterfly Orchid

Vappodes bigibba (Lindl.) M.A.Clem. & D.L.Jones, Orchadian 13(11): 492 (2002).

Dendrobium bigibbum Lindl. in Paxtonís, Fl. Gard. 3: 25, f. 245 (1852); Callista bigibba (Lindl.) Kuntze, Revis. gen. pl. 2: 654 (1891). Type: cult. London ex New Holland, Jan. 1852, Loddiges s.n. (holo K-LINDL).

Dendrobium sumneri F.Muell., Fragm. 6: 94 (1867); Dendrobium bigibbum var. sumneri (F.Muell.) F.M.Bailey, Syn. Queensl. fl. 509 (1883); Callista sumneri (F.Muell.) Kuntze, Revis. gen. pl. 2: 655 (1891). Type: In vicinity of promontory of Cape York, 1867, F. Jardine s.n. (holo MEL).

Dendrobium bigibbum var. candidum Rchb.f., Gard. Chron. (new ser.), 9: 68 (1878); Dendrobium bigibbum subvar. candidum (Rchb.f.) Veitch in Veitch & Son, Man. Orchid. Pl. 1(3): 23 (1888). Type: cult. B.S. Williams ex Torres Strait, 1877?, Goldie s.n. (holo W).

Dendrobium phalaenopsis var. statterianum Sander, Reichenbachia (ser. 2) 1: 15, t. 7 (1892), nom. illeg. Type: cultivated Manchester, England by T. Statter from a plant brought from F. Sander & Co ex Torres Strait?, [Anon] (holo not found; lectotype t. 7), fide Clements (1989).

Dendrobium bigibbum var. album F.M.Bailey, Queensl. fl. 5: 1524 (1902). Type: s.loc. (BRI not found).


Occurs in northern Queensland on some Torres Strait islands, in the east from Cape York to the Archer River and on the western side of Cape York Peninsula.

Altitude: 0-400 m.

Also occurs in Indonesia and New Guinea.


Epiphytic or lithophytic herb forming medium-sized slender clumps. Pseudobulbs erect, cylindrical, 20-120 cm x 1-1.5 cm, green or purplish. Leaves 3-5, scattered along upper third of pseudobulb, erect to prostrate, distichous, alternate, sessile, bases sheathing pseudobulb; lamina narrowly ovate, 10-15 cm x 3-3.5 cm, green often with purplish margins, thin but fleshy. Inflorescence a terminal raceme, arching, 200-400 mm long; pedicels 20-30 mm long. Flowers 2-20, resupinate, porrect, 20-30 mm x 30-50 mm, usually lilac-purple, rarely white, bluish or pinkish, with prominent white spot on labellum. Sepals and petals widely spreading, overlapping; petals broader than sepals. Dorsal sepal erect or recurved, oblong to ovate, 25-30 mm x 9-11 mm. Lateral sepals widely divergent, 20-25 mm x 9-11 mm, bases fused to column foot. Petals divergent, broadly ovate, 25-30 mm x 25-30 mm, often recurved. Labellum projected forward, 24 mm x 20 mm, 3-lobed; lateral lobes erect, veined, embracing column; midlobe decurved, with prominent white hairy patch and 4 or 5 ridges. Column 4-7 mm long. Column foot 9-15 mm long, at right-angles to column. Capsules pendulous, dehiscent.


Occurs in stunted coastal scrub, streambank vegetation, monsoon thickets and open habitats such as gullies in open forests and woodlands, growing on rocks and trees. It is probably Australia's best-known native orchid and is very popular as a cultivated orchid. It rapidly recolonises disturbed sites.

Locally common.

Flowering period: February-July.

Name Changes

Until recently known as Dendrobium bigibbum.

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