Australian Tropical Rainforest Orchids

Vappodes lithocola

Dwarf Butterfly Orchid

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

Dendrobium lithocola D.L.Jones & M.A.Clem., Austral. Orch. Res. 1: 56 (1989); Dendrobium phalaenopsis var. compactum C.T.White, Austral. Orchid Rev. 6: 53 (1941); Dendrobium bigibbum var. phalaenopsis forma compactum (C.T.White) G.L.Piper, Austral. Orchid Rev. 15: 40, in obs. (1950); Dendrobium bigibbum subvar. compactum (C.T.White) St.Cloud, North Queensland Naturalist 24(115): 18 (1956); Dendrobium bigibbum forma compactum (C.T.White) St.Cloud, North Queensland Naturalist 24 (115): 18 (1956); Dendrobium bigibbum var. superbum subvar. compactum (C.T.White) Dockrill, Austral. Indig. Orchids 1: 422 (1969). Lectotype: cult. Brisbane ex Hartley’s Creek, Queensland, Mar.1941, A. Hilsden s.n. (lectotype BRI), fide Clements (1989); Syntype: cult. Brisbane ex Mossman River, Queensland, W.A. Moller s.n. (BRI not found).


Occurs in north-eastern Queensland on the coastal ranges between Daintree and Cairns.

Altitude: 300-800 m.


Epiphytic or lithophytic herb forming squat clumps. Pseudobulbs erect, conical to fusiform, prominently swollen, 5-25 cm x 1.5-2 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 to elliptic, 3-12 cm x 1.5-2.5 cm, green. Inflorescence a terminal raceme, 110-300 mm long. Flowers 1-8, resupinate, porrect, 25-35 mm x 40-70 mm, usually lilac-purple, rarely white or bluish, labellum without a white spot. Sepals and petals widely spreading. Dorsal sepal 25-30 mm x 9-12 mm. Lateral sepals 20-25 mm x 9-11 mm, bases fused to column foot. Petals 25-30 mm x 25-30 mm. Labellum 22-26 mm x 24-28 mm, 3-lobed; lateral lobes erect, veined, embracing column; midlobe decurved, with hairy patch and 4-5 ridges, without white spot. Capsules pendulous, dehiscent.


Occurs on coastal ranges and mountains growing on rocks, boulders and cliff faces on ridges and slopes. The plants are often exposed to full sun and can withstand long periods of hot dry conditions during which they completely defoliate.

Highly localised.

Flowering period: March-July.

Name Changes

Previously known as either Dendrobium lithocola or Dendrobium bigibbum var. compactum.

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