Pleione (peacock orchid) is a small genus of predominantly terrestrial but sometimes epiphytic or lithophytic, miniature orchids. This genus is named after Pleione, mother of the Pleiades (in Greek mythology), and comprises about 20 species. Other common names of this genus include glory of the east, Himalayan crocus, Indian crocus and windowsill orchid. The genus Diploconchium Schauer is generally included here. Pleione is abbreviated to Pln in trade journals.
Distribution and habitat
They are distributed in the mountains and foothills of the Himalayas, India, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China, and are well adapted to cold temperatures and even frost. A few, however, prefer warmer temperatures. They grow in well-drained habitats and on rocks covered with moss at altitudes of 600–4,200 m (1,969–13,780 ft).
The sympodial growth habit of terrestrial Pleione orchids is unusual. They have relatively large, spongy, almost globular or ampulliform pseudobulbs, narrowed at the apex. Every pseudobulb is only active for one year and carries one or two pleated parallel-veined leaves, with a length of 15–30 cm (6–12 in). These drop off before winter. The pseudobulb stays dormant, till a new one starts to develop. This one produces new roots and a short pedicel. This pseudobulb remains active till the end of the bloom. Then the whole cycle starts all over again.
The big, showy flowers originate from new shoots formed at the base of the pseudobulb. They are pink to purplish, white or yellow, while the fringed, tubular lip is often paler or white, with yellow, red or purple dots and stripes. The flowers of the mountain species start blooming in spring, while the new shoots develop. The flowers of the orchids, growing in warmer climates, bloom in autumn, when the leaves have dropped.
They are very closely related to the genus Coelogyne and were once considered part of it.
They are easily grown by the layman, easy to propagate and are among the most popular orchids. They are much in demand for hybridization. Numerous garden hybrids have been produced, of which the following have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:-
- Pleione albiflora (China - W. Yunnan to N. Burma).
- Pleione aurita (China - W. Yunnan).
- Pleione braemii (China - Yunnan).
- Pleione bulbocodioides (C. China to SE. Tibet)
- Pleione chunii (S. China).
- Pleione coronaria (C. Nepal).
- Pleione formosana : Taiwan Pleione (SE. China, N. & C. Taiwan).
- Pleione forrestii (China - NW. Yunnan)- to N. Burma).
- Pleione grandiflora (China (- S. Yunnan to NW. Vietnam).
- Pleione hookeriana (Nepal to China - SE. Yunnan to N. Guangdong- to Indo-China)
- Pleione humilis (C. Himalaya to Burma).
- Pleione limprichtii : Hardy Chinese Orchid (China - C. Sichuan).
- Pleione maculata (C. Himalaya to China - W. Yunnan).
- Pleione microphylla (China - Guangdong).
- Pleione pleionoides (C. China).
- Pleione praecox (WC. Himalaya to China - S. Yunnan). (type species)
- Pleione saxicola (E. Bhutan to China - NW. Yunnan).
- Pleione scopulorum (India - NE. Arunachal Pradesh to China - NW. Yunnan).
- Pleione vietnamensis (SC. Vietnam).
- Pleione yunnanensis (SC. China to N. Burma).
It has been suggested that P. bulbocodioides, P. limprichtii and P. pleionoides could all be the same species.
Currently, there are two sections in the genus Pleione
- section Pleione (includes the autumn-flowered species) : P. × lagenaria, P. maculata, P. praecox, P. saxicola
- section Humiles (includes the spring-flowering species) : P. albiflora, P. bulbocodioides, P. chunii, P. × confusa, P. coronaria, P. formosana, P. forrestii,¨P. grandiflora, P. hookeriana, P. praecox, P. × kohlsii, P. limprichtii, P. pleionoides, P. scopulorum, P. yunnanensis
- Pleione × barbarae (P. bulbocodioides × P. grandiflora) (China - SE. Yunnan to N. Vietnam).
- Pleione × christianii (P. yunnanensis × P. forrestii) (China - W. Yunnan).
- Pleione × confusa (P. albiflora × P. forrestii) (China - W. Yunnan).
- Pleione × kohlsii (P. aurita × P. forrestii) (China - W. Yunnan).
- Pleione × lagenaria (P. maculata × P. praecox).(Assam to China - W. Yunnan).
- Pleione × taliensis (P. bulbocodioides × P. yunnanensis) (China - W. Yunnan).
- "RHS Plant Selector - Pleione Shantung gx. 'Muriel Harberd'". Retrieved 01 July 2013.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Pleione Versailles gx. 'Bucklebury'". Retrieved 01 July 2013.
- Phillip Cribb & Ian Butterfield : The Genus Pleione" (Second Edition 1999) Natural History Publications in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 983-812-040-5
- C. Z. Tang & I. Butterfield. 1983. The genus Pleione. Curtis’s Bot. Mag. 184: 93—147.