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Dendrobium of Borneo - COMPLETED

An account of the genus Dendrobium sensu stricto in Borneo (between 160 and 170 species)

Dendrobium is the second largest orchid genus after Bulbophyllum in the Flora Malesiana region. Almost half of 1100 or so species, many of which are of great horticultural value, are found on the island of New Guinea alone. Other centres of speciation include the Himalayan region, the Malay Archipelago (especially Borneo) and the Philippines. Molecular and embryological data are demonstrating how important evolutionary interspecific and intergeneric relationships are when attempting to produce a stable modern classification of this polymorphic genus. A few of the more distinctive of numerous sections of Dendrobium proposed by the eminent German botanist, Rudolf Schlechter and other workers, have subsequently been raised to generic rank. Notable exceptions include Cadetia, Diplocaulobium, Epigeneium and Flickingeria. Recent molecular and embryological data indicate that these segregate genera nest within the broader of Dendrobium.

Early thoughts on writing an account of the dendrobiums of Borneo were encouraged by Datuk Chan Chew Lun, Managing Director of Natural History Publications (Borneo), based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Chew Lun has collaborated with various staff and research associates at RBG Kew, Edinburgh and institutions overseas in the production of a number of high quality publications.

Work on this account commenced about three years ago and will take the form of a detailed revision of the between 160 and 170 species belonging within 15 sections native to Borneo. Taxa new to science have continued to be discovered as botanically unknown or poorly collected areas have been investigated. Unfortunately, many of the more interesting collections have originated from areas that are currently under threat from logging. Several local growers are coming to the rescue and are also providing valuable material for scientific research. One of these is Phillip Chew, an honorary game warden with the Sabah Wildlife Department. He and his entomologist brother Stephen, have set up a butterfly park at Kipandi in Sabah’s Crocker Range National Park. The Sabah Wildlife Department has provided him with permits to collect native orchids at the park, which is open to visitors. Tony Lamb, a retired agricultural officer resident in Sabah since the 1960s visits the park collections regularly to sketch and preserve material for the herbarium at Sandakan (SAN). Several recent acquisitions represent undescribed species.

This account will include chapters covering morphology, pollination, plate tectonics and the bicentric theory for the evolution of tribe Dendrobieae, the dendrobiums of Borneo compared with those of the Philippines, New Guinea and New Caledonia, molecular phylogenetics, ethnobotany, Dendrobium habitats in Borneo, and notes on allied genera such as Epigeneium and Flickingeria are also included. All taxa will be illustrated with black and white line drawings, together with colour photographs as possible.


Key papers published 2006-2011:

  • O’Byrne, P. & Wood, J. J. 2007. A new species of Dendrobium from Borneo. Orchid Review 115: 144–147.
  • Wood, J.J. 2008. Four new species of Dendrobium from Borneo. Orchid Review 116: 16–23.
  • Wood. J.J. 2009. A new ppecies of Dendrobium section Calcarifera from Borneo. Malesian Orchid Journal 3: 31–34.
  • Wood, J.J. 2009. Dendrobium jiewhoei: an enigmatic member of section Calcarifera from Borneo. Malesian Orchid Journal 3: 117–125.
  • Metusala, D., O’Byrne, P. & Wood, J.J. 2010. A new species of Dendrobium (section Calcarifera) from Kalimantan Barat. Malesian Orchid Journal 5: 29–34.
  • Metusala, D., O’Byrne, P. & Wood, J.J. 2010. Dendrobium dianae – a new species of section Calcarifera from Borneo. Malesian Orchid Journal 6: 57–64.
  • Wood, J.J. 2011. Dendrobium tawauense – a new species of section Crumenata from Borneo. Malesian Orchid Journal 7: 125–128.

Project partners and collaborators


Anthony Lamb

Kipandi Butterfly Park


Destario Metusala


Peter O'Byrne

Project Department