Aerides, known commonly as cat's-tail orchids and fox brush orchids, is a genus belonging to the orchid family (Orchidaceae) (subfamily Epidendroideae, tribe Vandeae, subtribe Aeridinae). It is a group of tropical epiphyte orchids that grow mainly in the warm lowlands of tropical Asia. They are valued in horticulture for their racemes of showy, fragrant, colorful flowers.
The name of the genus refers to the epiphytic growth habit of the species, and literally means "air-plant". The type species, Aerides odoratum, was described by João de Loureiro in 1790. This genus is abbreviated Aer in the horticultural trade.
The species in this genus range from small to large monopodial epiphytes, except for Aerides krabiensis, which is a lithophyte. They form pendulous racemes with many long-lasting, fragrant, waxy flowers, which are often white with purple or pink edges. Some species have purple or pink flowers, and a few have yellow. Each flower has a forward-facing spur and grows on a sharp, stout, leafy stem. The leaves are distichous, growing in two vertical rows. The leaf margins are bilobed, and the apex is emarginate. There are ligules. Morphologically, they are very similar to species in the Vanda genus.
The genus grows in the tropics of Asia, in India, Nepal, Southern China, South-East Asia, The Philippines and New Guinea. They flower from June to July. Temperature requirements vary from cool to warm growing depending on the species.
Most Aerides species are considered easy to grow. Their flowers are fragrant and long-lived, which make them popular in horticulture as cut flowers and potted plants. Aerides can be kept in hanging baskets, teak containers or net pots, which allow the roots to extend into the air. They grow best in well-drained media, such as tree fern fibers, fir bark, and sphagnum moss. They require full sunlight, warm temperatures, and water applied to the roots. The plants do not tolerate disturbance or damage of their root systems in cultivation.
The plants do not have pseudobulbs. The leaves are leathery and drought-resistant. Many of these species have a monopodial vine-like growth habit, and the plants can quickly grow large.
There are 25 species, all monopodial epiphytic plants except the lithophyte A. krabiense.
Many hybrids have been made between Aerides and other orchids. The horticultural specimen × Christieara is a three-way hybrid between Aerides, Vanda, and Ascocentrum. Hybrids come in a wide range of colours due to the high degree of genetic diversity.
- Banks, David P. (1999), Tropical Orchids: Of Southeast Asia, Tuttle Publishing, p. 8, ISBN 978-962-593-156-2
- "Aerides Orchid Genus". Species Specific. Bill Hunter. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
- Peter, K. V. (2007), Underutilized and underexploited horticultural crops, Volume 1, New India Publishing, p. 118, ISBN 978-81-89422-60-8
- Kramer, Jack (2006), 100 Orchids for Florida, Pineapple Press Inc, p. 32, ISBN 978-1-56164-367-7
- Illustrated Encyclopedia of Orchids ISBN 0-88192-267-6