Distribution: An erect green orchid, it is found growing all over South Asia. It likes to grow in areas with long daylight hours; with high rainfall (high humidity) and warm to hot temperatures.
Taxonomy: The other names of Papilionanthe teres are Dendrobium teres and Vanda teres. It is also known as the 'Butterfly orchid'.
Morphology: Papilionanthe teres is an epiphytic orchid. Though it is commonly found growing on rough barked trees, you can also see this orchid growing on smooth surfaces like telephone poles. The stem of this orchid is erect and green, profusely branching and forming huge bunches. Looking at this orchid you will think that it lacks leaves, but it is not so. The leaves are present and are round like stems; but unlike stem, leaves are not branched. Roots are of two types: green and swollen as well as brown and shrivelled. Both types of roots are exposed and grow out from stem nodes.
Phenology: It blooms throughout the year, but you will see it flowering profusely in summers when rains arrive. Flowers are large and beautiful. The inflorescence has three or more flowers. The pink and white coloured flowers occur in numerous variations. Some flowers are more white than pink, while others are more pink than white. In the variety 'alba' the flowers are totally white. In every case, flowers are always beautiful. Sometimes scented, these flowers can remain fresh for about a week. Flowers of Papilionanthe teres can be sold commercially. Breeders have been successfully producing hybrids of Papilionanthe teres with other Vanda species. One such popular hybrid is Vanda 'Miss Joaquim'.
Propagation: Papilionanthe teres is a hardy orchid. When provided with optimum humidity and congenial temperatures, it can survive without a growth medium, just tie it to a pole. It can be grown in a hollow cylindrical container or tied to tree logs. It might require a support while growing.
Though Papilionanthe teres requires full sunlight, it can still get burned if kept in direct sun during the hottest part of the day. Keep humidity on the higher side (80 – 90%) with lot of air circulation. Temperatures around 30°C during day and 15°C at night give best results. Watering (pH 5.0 – 6.5) should be done daily in summers and in winters just keep the plant slightly moist. If you can store rain water, it would be best for orchids.
Pest and diseases: Papilionanthe teres remains relatively free of pests and diseases. However, weevil and virus infestations affecting other orchids can cause harm to this orchid as well.
Weevil is small beetle. The symptoms of weevil infestations are discoloured and streaked flowers. In case of weevil attacks, repeated insecticide spraying at regular intervals of 15 - 20 days, is advised.
There is no known cure for virus. Best way to handle virus infected orchid is by separating it from other healthy orchids. Symptoms of virus infections are brown spots/rings, discolouration of leaves. But, let me clarify here that the browning can also be because of other plant related problems. So in case of doubt get your orchid checked by an expert.