Dendrobium bensoniae (Lady Benson’s dendrobium)
A large-flowered orchid from the forests of northeastern India and northern Burma, Lady Benson’s dendrobium is cultivated by orchid enthusiasts.
Dendrobium bensoniae is a popular ornamental orchid from the forests of India, Burma and possibly Thailand. It has large flowers with a lip with a characteristic golden disk and two large, purple spots. One of Kew’s earlier directors, Joseph Hooker, explained in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine how D. bensoniae was described from a specimen sent to the UK from Burma in the 19th century by ‘an indefatigable collector and horticulturist, Colonel Benson, after whose lady it is named at his own request’.
Geography & Distribution
Dendrobium bensoniae is found growing on tree trunks in lowland and submontane moist forests in northeastern India (Assam) and northern Burma. It has also been reported from Thailand, but this may have been in error.
Illustration of Dendrobium bensoniae by Walter Hood Fitch for Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Overview: The pseudobulbs (storage organs formed by swollen stems) are long and slender.
The leaves are linear, 5 cm long and deciduous.
Flowers: About 6 cm in diameter, the flowers occur in groups of twos or threes on the upper part of the leafless stem.
The sepals and petals are white or cream, the former being narrow and pointed, the latter broad and rounded.
The lip has a golden disk in the centre with two large purple spots at the base.
Threats & Conservation
Lady Benson’s dendrobium is a somewhat uncommon ornamental, which is commercialised worldwide. Illegal collection for the horticultural trade threatens many orchids in the region but is not considered to directly threaten the survival of this locally common species.
Dendrobium bensoniae is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Conservation assessments carried out at Kew
Dendrobium bensoniae is being monitored as part of the IUCN Sampled Red List Index for Plants, which aims to produce conservation assessments for a representative sample of the world’s plant species. This information will then be used to monitor trends in extinction risk and help focus conservation efforts where they are needed most.
Lady Benson’s dendrobium is cultivated as an ornamental.
Illustration from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine
An illustration of Dendrobium bensoniae by W.H. Fitch can be found in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine.
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration. Now well over two hundred years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation, and economic uses of the plants described.
Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing. See the Wiley-Blackwell Subscription Information page for rates (for both print and online).
This species at Kew
Pressed and dried specimens of Dendrobium bensoniae are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world by appointment.
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