Accepted name: Dendrochilum gibbsiae Rolfe, J. Linn. Soc., Bot. 42: 147 (1914)

Subgenus – Platyclinis. Section – Cruciformia.




Dendrochilum kinabuluense Rolfe, J. Linn. Soc., Bot. 42: 148 (1914).

Dendrochilum quinquelobum Ames, Orchidaceae 6: 63 (1920).


Origin in the Wild


Brunei, Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan


Elevation in the Wild


800-2400 metres


Habitat in the Wild


The type was collected in Sabah on Mount Kinabalu on the Marai Parai Spur.


Within Sarawak this species has been collected in the Marudi District in the Gunung Mulu National Park and on Mount Api; Belaga District on the Linau-Balui divide and the Nawai/Balui Rivers; Simunjan District on Mount Ampungan and on Batu hill in the Hose Mountains of the Kapit District.


In Brunei this species has been collected from Temburong District on Mount Pagon.


Within Sabah specimens mostly appear to have been collected from Mount Kinabalu. The Leiden specimen L0269566 was collected in the Tawai National Park.


In Kalimantan Timur this species was collected east of Long Nawan on the Kayan River near Long Sungai Barang.


Jeffrey Wood describes its habitat as lower montane oak-laurel forest, open montane forest on limestone, mossy forest on ultramafic substrate, roadside banks on sandstone and shale outcrops, and limestone boulders in primary rainforest. Dendrochilum gibbsiae has been recorded as growing on tree trunks and lower branches (Wood 2001).


The Plants Description


This species can grow as a terrestrial or epiphyte. The pseudobulbs cluster on a short but sometimes creeping rhizome, the rhizome can grow to 10cm long and rarely 16cm long. The pseudobulbs are shaped cylindrical, narrowly oblong, ovoid-oblong or narrowly fusiform. The pseudobulbs measure 1.2-4.8cm long and 0.3-1cm in diameter. The pseudobulbs are covered by 3-4 cataphylls while they are growing. The cataphylls disintegrate into persistent fibres as the pseudobulbs mature. The leaves are petiolate; the petiole measures 1.5-3cm long. The leaf blades are shaped linear-lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate and have subacute or acute apices. The leaf blades measure 10-28cm long and 0.6-1.8cm wide. There are 5-7 distinct nerves on the blade.


The Inflorescence


The peduncle is erect and measures 8-13cm long. The rachis is curved and measures 10-16cm long. The rachis is quadrangular in cross-section. The flowers alternate distichously and are spaced 2-3mm apart. There are no non-floriferous bracts at the base of the rachis.


The Flowers


A variety of colour forms exist. Jeffrey gave an account of the different colours that have been described (Wood 2001). There are 2 spots at the base of the mid-lobe which are usually coloured pink, purple, maroon, brown or orange brown. The dorsal sepal is shaped oblong-elliptic and has an acute apex. The dorsal sepal measures 2.2-4mm long and 0.8-1.1mm wide. The dorsal sepal has an entire margin, is concave, minutely papillose at its base and is 3-veined. The lateral sepals are shaped oblong-ovate and have acute apices. The lateral sepals measure 2-4mm long and 1.2-1.5mm wide. The lateral sepals have entire margins, are minutely papillose at their bases and are 1 or 2 veined. The petals are shaped narrowly elliptic or oblong-elliptic and have acute apices. The petals measure 1.6-3.6mm long and 0.8-1mm wide. The petals have entire margins, are minutely papillose at their bases and are 3-veined. The labellum is 5-lobed and measures 1.6-3mm long and 2.5-4mm at its widest point. There are 3 veins, the median vein is prominent. The side lobes are spreading or erect and shaped oblong with obtuse or truncate apices. The side lobe margins can be erose and the side lobes can also be shaped like small triangular-falcate teeth. The mid lobe is shaped cruciform, the side lobules are spreading, retrorse and shaped oblong, and rounded to oblong-falcate they have obtuse apices. The median lobule is cuspidate and has an acuminate or deflexed and ascending apex. The margins on the labellum are usually entire. There are 2 keels that are joined and form an upside down U shape near the base of the labellum; the keels terminate at the base of the side lobes. The column is slender and measures 1.4-2mm long. There is no column foot. The apical hood is short, shaped narrowly ovate and has an obtuse to subacute apex. The apical hood has entire margins. The stelidia grow from the base of the column and are equal to or exceed the column apex. The stelidia are shaped oblong-linear and have obtuse apices that are hooked (hamate).


Herbarium Specimens




BM (Dendrochilum gibbsiae)


Specimen (Dendrochilum gibbsiae)

Specimen (Dendrochilum kinabuluense)




Specimen 98799 (photo) (Dendrochilum quinquelobum)





New York Botanical Garden (NY)


Specimen 8745 (Photo)(Dendrochilum quinquelobum)


Royal Botanic gardens Kew (K)


Specimen K000078191 (drawing)

Specimen K000078189 (photo) (Dendrochilum kinabuluense)

Specimen K000078188 (photo)

Specimen K000078190 (photo)








Other herbarium specimens


National Herbarium Netherlands, Leiden (L)


Specimen L0269563

Specimen L0269564

Specimen L0269565

Specimen L0269566

Specimen L0269567

Specimen L0269568

Specimen L0269569

Specimen L0269570

Specimen L0269571

Specimen L0269572 

Specimen L0269573

Specimen L0269574

Specimen L0322489

Specimen L0322490

Specimen L0322491

Specimen L0322492

Specimen L0322493






Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (K)

Specimen 61442.000

Specimen 60417.000

Specimen 70774.000

Specimen 61497.000

Specimen 49666.000

Specimen 49438.000

Specimen K000078186

Specimen 61443.00

Specimen 60416.000

Specimen K000078187 (photo) (Dendrochilum quinquelobum)











Specimen 98760 (drawing of the type)

Specimen 98772 (drawing of the type) (Dendrochilum kinabuluense)






The flowers can be scented or unscented. The scent is described to be like oranges.


Flowering Season


Flowering plants have been collected in the wild year round.




This species is known in cultivation but is very hard to procure.


Similar Species


Dendrochilum hastilobum

Dendrochilum dolichobrachium

Dendrochilum cruciforme var. cruciforme (see this page for the differences)

Dendrochilum exasperatum (see this page for the differences)

Dendrochilum hosei (see this page for the differences)


Other Information


Jeffrey Wood wrote (1997) that this is the most widespread species is section Cruciformia.


Dendrochilum kinabuluense was added to the synonymy of Dendrochilum gibbsiae by Jeffrey Wood on account that the flowers look the same. Rolf described Dendrochilum kinabuluense on account of its narrower leaves and inflorescence. Ames wrote the following “From a study of drawings of this species preserved in my herbarium, it would seem that D. gibbsiae is a very near ally of D. kinabuluense Rolfe. There is reason to believe that the examination of more ample material will indicate that the characters relied on for the separation of these species will break down” (Ames 1920).


Dendrochilum quinquelobum was added to the synonymy of Dendrochilum gibbsiae by Jeffrey Wood on account of the flowers appearing the same. Ames wrote that “Dendrochilum quinquelobum differs from its allies by the strongly reflexed, falcate terminal lobes of the lip beyond which the fifth lobe or large cusp protrudes. The lip of D. gibbsiae and of D. kinabuluense resembles more closely the lip of D. haslamii than that of D. quinquelobum.” Ames also wrote in his Orchidaceae Facsimile 6 “A near relative of D. gibbsiae or D. kinabuluense from which species it differs by the lobbing of the labellum, the lateral lobes being strongly curved backward. Intensive studies of more material than I have been able to examine may reveal closer relationships between D. quinquelobum and the species described by Rolfe than now seem likely. From careful drawings of D. gibbsiae and D. kinabuluense preserved in my herbarium, their affinity is extremely close” (Ames 1920).


Dendrochilum gibbsiae is a variable species. Jeffrey Wood wrote that 3 specimens collected from the Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak differ by having an elongated rhizome, dwarfed in habit and shorter leaf blades that measure 3.3-5.5cm long and 0.4-0.6cm wide. The 3 plants were collected from shrubbery on an exposed limestone ridge at 1500 meters on Mount Api.


The leaves contain crystalline calcium oxalate bodies within their leaves. The bodies are also present in related species as well.




AMES, Oakes. 1920, Illustrations and studies of the Family Orchidaceae Facsimile 6, The Orchids of Mount Kinabalu British North Borneo, Ames Botanical Laboratory, North Easton, Massachusetts, Boston.


WOOD, Jeffrey. 1997, Orchids of Borneo volume 3. The Sabah Society, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.


WOOD, Jeffrey. Dendrochilum of Borneo, 2001. Natural History Publications (Borneo), Malaysia.


World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. 17 January 2009. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; accessed 17 January 2009.