Dendrobium macfarlanei F.Muell., Descr. Notes Papuan Pl. 1 (1876) 29; Wing's South. Sci. Record 3 (1883) 247.
Rhizome short. Stems crowded, widened and strongly flattened-quadrangular in the basal part, upper part slender, at least 30 cm long, 1.8 cm across in the broadest part. Leaves bilaterally flattened, linear-lanceolate, straight, 3.6-7.2 by 0.8-1 cm, apex acuminate. Pedicel and ovary 0.7-0.8 cm long. Flowers c. 1.2 cm long. Dorsal sepal lanceolate, 0.4-0.45 cm long. Lateral sepals lanceolate, mentum 8 mm long, obtuse. Petals shorter than the dorsal sepal, linear-lanceolate, apex acute. Lip 3-lobed, with a slight subterminal callosity from which 3 low median lines decur; lateral lobes short, rounded-obtuse; midlobe larger.
(after F. von Mueller, 1876 & 1883).
Colours: Flowers pale tinged pinkish.
Habitat: Epiphyte in most types of lowland forest. Altitude 0 to 600 m.
Flowering time in the wild: Throughout the year.
Distribution: New Guinea (endemic).
Distribution in New Guinea: Papua and Papua New Guinea, widespread and common.
Notes: Considerable confusion surrounds the identity and systematic position of the small number of species allied to Dendrobium macfarlanei. They all have laterally flattened leaves, while most, including Dendrobium macfarlanei, have swollen basal internodes to the stems, which would place them in section Crumenata. These include Dendrobium litorale, Dendrobium hymenocentrum, Dendrobium eboracense, Dendrobium humboldtense, Dendrobium cultrifolium, Dendrobium platybasis, and Dendrobium goldfinchii. Another obviously closely related species, Dendrobium pseudocalceolum, does not have swollen basal internodes, and therefore, technically, would not belong to section Crumenata. However, in view of the complete agreement in all other character states, we suggest that D. pseudocalceolum should also be admitted to sect. Crumenata, even though this makes writing keys to the sections quite complicated. O'Byrne (1994), who wrongly identified the latter species as D. macfarlanei, preferred to include it in sect. Strongyle, while J.J. Smith suggested sect. Aporum. The eight names mentioned above are perhaps referable to just three 'good' species (D. macfarlanei, D. goldfinchii, and D. pseudocalceolum), but a detailed study is needed to decide this issue.
Cultivation: Warm growing epiphyte, requires much light and excellent drainage, is able to tolerate drought, but not for very long periods.