Fairy Sanggumay enchanted tales

Fairy sanggumay orchid is in bloom once again. People have marveled and been enchanted with the stunning display of flowers and the shower-like effect of this flowering orchid species.

fairy sanggumay
Dendrobium aphyllum commonly known as fairy sanggumay, sanggumay, salome grown by the author

Fairy Sanggumay other names:

This type of orchid species is called sanggumay, fairy sanggumay ( looks like little fairies flying ), lesser sanggumays, dainty sanggumays ( due to much smaller flowers and paler flowers), salome ( due to the long pseudobulbs ), latigo ,hooded dendrobium, temple orchids ,shell orchids, Pierard’s dendrobium among others.

fairy sanggumay
Dendrobium aphyllum grown by Mr. Ronald Estayan ( Photo courtesy : Mr. Ronald Estayan)

Scientific namesDendrobium aphyllum (Roxburgh) C.E.C.Fisch. 1928 SECTION Dendrobium.

Sir William Roxburgh discovered them growing in the forest of southern India and described in his book Plants of the Coast of Coromandel in 1795. While C.E.C. Fischer previously called the orchid species Dendrobium pierardii, Roxburgh ex Hooker, which is now considered a synonyms.

Another name is Dendobium cucullatum which is an invalid name, It was published in 1821 by Robert Brown. Since the first one to identify and publish was William Roxburgh in 1795, the credit goes to the one who first describe the orchid species. This is also one of the first orchid species grown at the Kew Garden.

There was some confusion on the correct and valid name of this species. This was settled few years ago by taxonomists.

Fairy sanggumay
Dednrobium aphyllum grown in Fairview by Mr. Ronald Estayan

Economic and Ethno-Botanical Importance:

In the Philippines, superstitious beliefs may vary from one place to another. Some people believes that growing them helps wards off evil spirits. Growing and cultivating them near one’s entrance or doorstep.

Another superstitious belief in caring for this orchid species, is it bring good luck to the grower and positive energy. One grower from San Jose del Monte, Bulacan believes that it is hiding place for white duwende ( elves/goblin).

Some aeta tribes of northern and southern Luzon would use the long psuedobulbs as a rope. Some dry the long pseudobulbs and use them as ornaments or small arm trinkets.  few people believe that because of its growing nature, it should not be planted in front of the yard because it is growing downward, which is bad feng shui.

Landscapers would incorporate this orchid species and naturalized them in large trees or palm within their property. When grown en mass, This can rival Cherry blossom in Japan or blooming Palawan Cherry tree.

This orchid species is commonly sold in Centris sunday market in Quezon City and in almost all garden centers nationwide.

Fairy Sanggumay
Fairy sanggumay grown at the mango tree ( Photo courtesy of Architect Patricia Regalado )

Fairy sanggumay had a stunning display of flowers. This was naturalized on an old mango tree growing within the garden of Architect Regalado more than 10 years ago in Antipolo, Rizal province. The orchid species serves as focal point during its blooming season.

Visitors would marvel at the stunning display of flowers and endless photos are taken.

This is one of the most commonly grown orchid species not only in the country but  throughout its natural range. IUCN listed this orchid species at least concern.

fairy sanggumay
Fairy sanggumay grown by Mr. Francis Perillo

Habitat and Distribution Range:

This orchid species can be found in wide range of habitat from 100 meter elevation up to more than 1,900 meters  elevation . It can be found  on trees and may grow on rocks or boulders as Lithophytes.  This orchid species is widespread from  India, Sir Lanka, Yunnan, China,  Taiwan , Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Maldives, Himalayas, Andaman islands, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Borneo, Lesser Sunda Islands, Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Queensland, Australia, Nepal, Bhutan and the Philippines.

fairy sanggumay
Dendrobium aphyllum aka fairy sanggumay grown by the author

Orchid and Flowers

The leaves are 3 to 10 cm long, 1–3 cm wide and deciduous after one growing season.The pseudobulbs can grow between 20 cm to more than 200 cm long. The canes are deciduous and the plant produces numerous aerial growths (keiki/ anak/suhi). The inflorescences are short, arising laterally from the leafless stems of the previous growing season. There are usually many inflorescences per cane, with one to three flowers on each. The flowers are 4–5 cm across and open widely with mild fragrance. In tropical countries like the Philippines, individual flowers can last between 4 to 5 days depending on the temperature.

This species is best grown into a large plant. start watering after flowering.

Dendrobium aphyllum
Dendrobium aphyllum

Cultivation and Fertilization

This orchid can easily established unto large trees, palms and fruit trees such as mango, jack fruit, duhat, lanzones, caimito and chico trees.

Use a combination of slow release fertilizer pellets, water soluble fertilizers, calcium, magnesium with micro-nutrients trace elements during its growing season. In the western part of the country, growth starts right after blooming.

The growth starts from mid-April to late November which coincide with the rainy season.

From November to late February during the start of the dry season. The orchid will stop producing new leaves. This is the signal that the plant has finished growing for the season; gradually reduce watering, allow the plant to dry somewhat between watering.

Drying is necessary in order for buds to develop and gradually will flower during its blooming season.

Having a few specimen plants will make your garden or surrounding more beautiful and relaxing.

References and Bibliographies

Personal interview with the growers

A Guide to the Dendrobium of the Philippines: Cootes and Tiong 2015

The Illustrated Directory of House Plants, page 100 , ISBN 0-86101-388-3 ; Salamander Book, 1990

Orchids of Asia: Teoh Eng Soon, page 120, Times Edition 2005

India Biodiversity : https://indiabiodiversity.org/species/show/229479

The Plant List : http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-57084

St. Agustine Orchid Society: : http://staugorchidsociety.org/PDF/CalciumAndMagnesiumbySueBottom.pdf






Rence Chan

writer and contributor

social media writer, food lover, heritage advocate, philatelist , deltiologist , numismatist , notaphilist , toy collector, key chain collector, bibliophile , orchid fancier , plant lover , environmental advocate, freshwater aquarium fish hobbyist, tour consultant, memorabilia and art connoisseur.