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'Malesia' is the confusing name that biologists apply to the region consisting of the territories of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. In this largely insular part of our globe one plant family dominates all the others in species diversity: the Orchidaceae. Approximately 6000 orchid species in more than 200 genera are found here. On the present website we want to visualize this overwhelming diversity by displaying a sample of species from all genera known from Malesia, together with some basic information about these genera.

Since nobody knows what a genus really is, any list of more than a few genera is bound to invite controversy. Some botanists will be dismayed to see their pet genera here relegated to synonymy, others may wonder why we continue to recognize e.g. the numerous oligotypic genera in the subtribe Aeridinae, while at the same time taking a broad-brush approach to such gargantuan taxa as Bulbophyllum and Dendrobium.

One simple reason is that we find the current system, which has gradually evolved since the time of Linnaeus (1753), a workable one. We can assign most of the species to the proper genus with little difficulty, and the majority of the genera listed below are probably monophyletic - or can be made monophyletic easily by adding a few satellite genera.

Another reason: we dislike name changes. Name changes make books and articles obsolete, cause a lot of extra work in herbaria, botanical gardens and nurseries, and are bad for the image of taxonomy. Some name changes resulting from nomenclatural or phylogenetic studies may be inevitable, but many are not.

A final reason for apparent inconsistencies in this list is due to the fact that we have not made up our minds yet on the delimitation of certain large and complex genera where molecular data indicate that the current classification is unsatisfactory (e.g. Coelogyne, Eria, Liparis and Malaxis). For the higher level taxonomy we generally follow Genera Orchidacearum (Pridgeon et al., 1999 - ), or the precursory papers to this excellent series. 

Pridgeon, A.M., P.J. Cribb, M.W. Chase, and F.N. Rasmussen. 1999-. Genera Orchidacearum, vol. I-. Oxford University Press, Oxford.



last updated: 18 February 2007 by André Schuiteman