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Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Monocots
Ordo: Asparagales

Familia: Orchidaceae
Subfamilia: Epidendroideae
Tribus: Vandeae
Subtribus: Angraecinae
Genus: Dendrophylax
Overview of species (15)

D. alcoa – D. barrettiae – D. constanzensis – D. fawcetti – D. filiformis – D. funalis – D. gracilis – D. helorrhiza – D. lindenii – D. macrocarpus – D. megarhizus – D. porrectus – D. sallei – D. serpentilingua – D. varius

Dendrophylax Rchb.f. in W.G.Walpers, Ann. Bot. Syst. 6: 903 (1864)

Type species: Dendrophylax varius (J.F.Gmel.) Urb., Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. 15: 306 (1918)


Polyrrhiza Pfitzer in H.G.A.Engler & K.A.E.Prantl (eds.), Nat. Pflanzenfam. 2(6): 216 (1889)
Harrisella Fawc. & Rendle, J. Bot. 47: 265 (1909)
Polyradicion Garay, J. Arnold Arbor. 50: 466 (1969)

Native distribution areas:

Northern America
Southeastern U.S.A.
Mexico Gulf, Mexico Southwest, Mexico Southeast.
Southern America
Central America
El Salvador, Guatemala.
Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico.

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Pridgeon, A.M., Cribb, P.J., Chase, M.W. & Rasmussen, F.N. (eds.) 2014. Genera Orchidacearum Volume 6: Epidendroideae (Part three); page 383 ff., Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19964-651-7
Reichenbach, H.G. (1864) Botanices Systematicae 6: 903.

Additional references

Carlsward, B.S., Whitten, W.M. & Williams, N.H. (2003) Molecular phylogenetics of Neotropical leafless Angraecinae (Orchidaceae): Re-evaluation of generic concepts, International Journal of Plant Sciences, 164: 43–51.


Global Biodiversity Information Facility. 2021. GBIF Backbone Taxonomy. Checklist dataset. Taxon: Dendrophylax. Accessed: 2021 Oct 4.
Govaerts, R. et al. 2021. Dendrophylax in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2021 Oct 4. Reference page.
Govaerts, R. et al. 2021. Dendrophylax in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2021 Oct 4. Reference page.
Hassler, M. 2021. Dendrophylax. World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World In: Roskovh, Y., Abucay, L., Orrell, T., Nicolson, D., Bailly, N., Kirk, P., Bourgoin, T., DeWalt, R.E., Decock, W., De Wever, A., Nieukerken, E. van, Zarucchi, J. & Penev, L., eds. 2021. Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2021 Oct 4. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2021. Dendrophylax. Published online. Accessed: 4 Oct 2021. 2021. Dendrophylax. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2021 Oct 4.

Vernacular names

перем коми: Дендрофилакс
коми: Дендрофилакс
кырык мары: Дендрофилакс
удмурт: Дендрофилакс

Dendrophylax is a genus of leafless neotropical orchids (family Orchidaceae) native to Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and Florida.[1][2][3] The name is from Greek δένδρον ("tree") and φύλαξ ("guard; keeper"). One species, Dendrophylax lindenii, featured heavily in the book The Orchid Thief.


The plants of this genus are unusual in that they consist of masses of photosynthetic roots anchored in trees with a highly reduced stem and ephemeral leaves which have been reduced to scales. The bulk of these plants consists only of flat, cord-like, green roots with distinctive "track marks". These white track marks are called pneumatodes and function in much the same manner as stomata allowing the photosynthetic roots to perform gas exchange to support photosynthesis.

Members of this genus are distant relatives of the African and Indian Ocean genus Angraecum; it seems that orchid seed, blowing like dust, crossed the Atlantic at least once and successfully colonized new habitat. Current evidence derived from molecular studies indicates that the original arrival from Africa which spawned this genus and the related genus Harriselia was a member of the subtribe Angraecineae with small leaves and flowers and a monopodial growth habit, and the leafless habit developed in parallel in both Africa and the Caribbean, since the genes are present in all members of the subtribe Angraecineae and the leafless habit is common in several genera within the Vandeae (Chilochista, Dendrophylax, Harriselia, and Microcoelia).

Several species such as Dendrophylax funalis, Dendrophylax fawcetti, and Dendrophylax lindenii produce large, showy, white flowers which are highly fragrant and described as smelling fruity and reminiscent of an apple. Most members of this genus are pollinated by various species of moths with very long probosces and the flowers of most species within this genus possess very long nectar spurs ranging from 4 to 8 inches in length on average. The giant sphinx moth is known to pollinate several species within this genus.

Dendrophylax funalis is more commonly and easily cultivated that other members of the genus and the plants tend to get very large and robust in both habitat and cultivation. Other members of this genus are very difficult subjects in cultivation such as Dendrophylax lindenii, and some members of this genus defy cultivation or are of little interest to orchid enthusiasts because they produce very small flowers.[4]

Species accepted as of June 2014:[1]

Dendrophylax alcoa - Dominican Republic
Dendrophylax barrettiae - Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba
Dendrophylax constanzensis - Dominican Republic
Dendrophylax fawcetti - Grand Cayman Island
Dendrophylax filiformis - Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico
Dendrophylax funalis - Jamaica
Dendrophylax gracilis - Cuba
Dendrophylax helorrhiza - Dominican Republic
Dendrophylax lindenii - Florida, Bahamas, Cuba
Dendrophylax macrocarpus - Dominican Republic
Dendrophylax porrectus - Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Florida, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico
Dendrophylax sallei - Dominican Republic
Dendrophylax serpentilingua - Dominican Republic
Dendrophylax varius - Cuba, Haiti


Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
Nir, M. Orchidaceae Antillanae, 82-87, 2000.
Carlsward, B.S., Whitten, W.M. & Williams, N.H. (2003). Molecular phylogenetics of Neotropical leafless Angraecinae (Orchidaceae). Reevaluation of generic concepts. International Journal of Plant Sciences 164: 43-51.

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Orchids ISBN 0-88192-267-6

Pridgeon, A.M., Cribb, P., Chase, M.W. & Rasmussen, F.N. (Eds) (2014) Genera Orchidacearum Volume 6: Epidendroideae (Part 3); page 383 ff., Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-964651-7

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