The genus occurs in diverse habitats throughout much of south, east and southeast Asia, including China, Japan, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, New Guinea, Vietnam, and many of the islands of the Pacific. The name is from the Greek dendron (“tree”) and bios (“life”); it means “one who lives on trees”, or, essentially, “epiphyte“.
In 1981, Briegar reclassified all terete-leaved Dendrobiums from Australia and New Guinea into a new genus, Dockrillia. The Winika orchid from New Zealand was formerly D. cunninghamii, but has now been moved into a monotypic genus Winika. In 1989, Clements upgraded the D. speciosum complex into individual species; similarly, the D. bigibbumcomplex (which contains the well-known Cooktown Orchid of Australia, D. phalaenopsis) has recently been split up. However, as an illustration of the current revisions in the taxonomy of Orchidaceae these ‘splits’ have now been reversed and the currently accepted species, natural nothospecies are presented on Wikispecies Dendrobium. The site includes a list of references that help explain the contemporary taxonomy of Dendrobium Sw., Nova Acta Regiae Soc. Sci. Upsal. 6: 82 (1799), nom. cons.