Bulbophyllum Thouars, Hist. Orchid. (1822) Tab. Esp. 3, Ic. t. 93-97
Sympodial epiphytic, or sometimes lithophytic or terrestrial plants with very short to very long rhizomes. Pseudobulbs consisting of one internode, sometimes very small, one- or two-leaved at the apex [in New Guinea always one-leaved]. Leaves not sheathing at the base, glabrous, dorso-ventrally flattened or rarely terete, deciduous, duplicate, leathery or sometimes rather thin-textured. Inflorescence arising from the base of the pseudobulbs or from the rhizome, a raceme or a single flower. Flowers very small to very large, sometimes ephemeral, resupinate or not. Sepals connate or free, usually with the lateral sepals forming a mentum. Petals free, normally very different from the sepals in size and shape as well as in colour. Lip without spur, usually hinged with the column and then highly mobile, but in sometimes lip may be firmly adnate to the column. Column-foot distinct or reduced to a swelling. Pollinia 2 or 4, solid, caudicles absent, stipe rarely present, viscidium absent.
World wide tropics, also in South Africa, Japan, New Zealand, in the Pacific east to the Society Islands. About 1900 species; in New Guinea more than 600 species.
In almost all habitats where epiphytic orchids occur. Also on rocks; rarely terrestrial and then mainly at higher altitudes.
Various attempts to split up this huge genus into smaller ones have been little more than cherry-picking: taking out (seemingly) well-defined groups, while leaving the bulk of the species untouched. This is unsatisfactory and does not take into account the phylogeny of the genus as a whole. Given how difficult it is to delimit the numerous sections within the genus using morphological characters, we consider it preferable to recognise only one big genus Bulbophyllum. This is to include such groups as Cirrhopetalum, Pedilochilus, Saccoglossum, Monosepalum, and others. For practical reasons some of these genera are still retained on this website, pending a critical review of the species. In the forthcoming update of this website these groups will be included as sections of Bulbophyllum.