Orchid Digest Logo

The Orchid Digest is a
non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

Excerpts from

VOLUME 82, NO. 1—January, February, March 2018


Calling all Paphiophiles
Harold Koopowitz
2 pages, 6 photos

The typical Paph. delenatii.
©Eric Hunt

I received an interesting question from Frikkie Marais in South Africa the other. As you can see, he comes to this from breeding vegetables. “Dear Harold. In vegetable breeding, we usually self a selected line for about seven times to fix certain traits. We then make various F1 hybrids using a number of these inbreds to see if there is something worthwhile. My question now is: will you get good hybrid vigor if one uses some of the older selfed clones of Paph. delenatii with the newer ones? Or will it be better just to get rid of the older clones with smaller flowers?”

To put this into the correct perspective, I need to explain and define a few terms:

Deleterious mutations: When parents create sex cells (same for plants, animals, yourself) mistakes are made in replicating genes. These mistakes are called deleterious mutations because the genes they code for cannot function. Fortunately, genes come in pairs and if the other member of the pair functions properly it can compensate for the deleterious one. Usually, there is one new delirious gene in each organism.

Inbreeding: If one selfs a plant or mates close relatives, it is called inbreeding. There is a chance that the offspring from inbreeding could end up with both members of a gene pair being deleterious. This is the biological basis for the taboos against incest and cousin marriages.

Bottleneck: When a small population goes through many generations of inbreeding, the deleterious genes get spread throughout the population. These individuals die, and the population has a good chance of becoming extinct. However, by chance, a few individuals end up having lost most of the bad genes, and they are quite vigorous. They can provide the foundation for a new population. The situation is described as “passing through a bottle neck.”

Heterosis: This is the correct term for hybrid vigor and is the opposite of inbreeding. Mating to unrelated organisms helps to compensate for deleterious genes because there is a greater chance that the deleterious gene will be masked.

The early history of Paphiopedilum delenatii is recounted in Slipper Orchids of Vietnam by Averyanov et al. (2003). Until their rediscovery in Southern Vietnam in the 1990s, all the plants in cultivation appeared to have been derived from a single plant at the nursery of Vacherot and Lecoufle in France. Because they were derived from only one, or at most two plants, all the early Paph. delenatii in cultivation were inbred. These early plants had a reputation for being difficult to cultivate, and today we understand why...


Paphiopedilum myanmaricum: A New Species of Slipper Orchid (Cypripedioideae, Orchidaceae)
Harold Koopowitz, Prapanth Iamwiriyakul and Srisuda Laohapatcharin
6 pages, 13 photos, 2 illustrations

Paphipedilum myanmaricum – holotype, whole plant and flower close-up.
©P. Iamwiriyakul

The genus Paphiopedilum can be classified into three subgenera and seven sections (Cribb, 1998) according to morphological, cytological, and molecular criteria. Subgenus Brachypetalum species hold a special place in the affections of slipper orchid aficionados. This group contains dwarf species that morphologically appear intermediate between subgenus Parvisepalum (Karasawa & Saito, 1982) and subgenus Paphiopedilum. Modern studies confirm this and phylogenetically the group appears to have evolved after the Parvisepalum subgenus but before the rest of the genus (for review see Koopowitz, 2017).

The Brachypetalum dwarf slipper orchids are maddeningly difficult for some to grow, while others find them quite easy. They prefer high humidity and warm temperatures and unless supplied with optimal conditions they frequently rot away. Nevertheless, the group has played an important role in the creation of hybrid slippers, usually providing wide petals to their progeny. There is only a handful of species in this group and when a new one is described it is an important slipper event. Here we describe a distinctively different and new Brachypetalum species. This species, Paphiopedilum myanmaricum (Koopowitz et al, 2017) was found recently in Myanmar (Burma)...
A New Species of Pleurothallopsis(Epidendreae, Epidendroideae, Orchidaceae)
Luke M. Matthews
3 pages, 1 photo, 1 illustration

Pleurothallopsis alphonsiana
©Alfonso Doucette

A new species similar to Pleurothallopsis inaequalis requires description. The new species is named to honor Alfonso Doucette in whose collection the new species was discovered. Pleurothallopsis alphonsiana is described, illustrated, and distinguished from similar species based on its morphological distinctness.

Key words: Andean floristics, Neotropical Orchidaceae, pleurothallid alliance

The genus Pleurothallopsis Porto & Brade was recognized in order to accommodate a species originally attributed to Lepanthes Sw. The genus is easily distinguished from Lepanthes by the compressed sheaths vs. trumpet-like sheaths, the petals that are longer than they are wide, the lip held below instead of tightly wrapped around the column, the ventral vs. apical anther, and the greater number of pollinia (4–8 vs. 2). The genus did not gain broad recognition until molecular analyses revealed Pleurothallopsis to be part of a clade that included species previously attributed to Restrepia Kunth and then transferred to Restrepiella Garay & Dunst. and, at the time of the molecular analysis, accommodated in Restrepiopsis Luer. The genus presently includes about 20 species distributed from Central America into the Andes and the Atlantic rainforests of Brazil...

Phalaenopsis kapuasensis: A New Species from West Kalimantan Recently Described
William Cavestro and Olaf Gruss
6 pages, 9 photos

Variability of Phalaenopsis kapuasensis
©Reza Wibawa

Key Words: Orchidaceae, Epidendroideae, Aeridinae, Phalaenopsis, Phalaenopsis kapuasensis, Indonesia.

A short time ago, a new species of the genus Phalaenopsis was described in the Indonesian journal “Jurnal Pro Life” by Destario Metusala and Peter O’Byrne. The species is closely related to Phal. gigantea, Phal. doweryensis, and Phal. rundumensis. It was named Phal. kapuasensis in reference to the province Kapuas Hulu, in the western part of Kalimantan, where the species was found.

This article deals with a new species recently described by D. Metusala and P. O’Byrne: Phalaenopsis kapuaensis is named in reference to Kapuas Hulu province in the western part of Kalimantan.

The genus Phalaenopsis was created in 1825 by the botanist Blume. This genus, comprised of about 45-50 species according to Pridgeon et al. (2014) or 72 species according to Olaf Gruss (2017), is found from India to southern China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Indochina, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, and New Guinea. Most species are found in Indonesia and the Philippines. According to the classification proposed by Christenson (2001), Phalaenopsis kapuasensis belongs to the subgenus Polychilos (Breda) E. A. Christenson, of the Amboinenses Sweet section, which includes, according to Christenson, 22 species. Christenson refused to separate the species from this section into subsections as did Sweet (1968). Indeed, the species distributed in Sweet’s subsections do not have homogeneous characteristics. According to Christenson, the treatment proposed by Sweet is not based on sufficient morphological data...


The Miracle of the Orchid Seed
Carol Siegel
14 pages, 22 photos

Stanhopea tigrina has a wing-shaped seed, an exception among the uniformly spindle-shaped orchid seeds.
©Rob Kessler

Natural selection rewards a good product, and seeds are one of nature’s great inventions. Compact, portable, and enduring, seeds cross space and time to deliver their plant starter kits. Worldwide, an estimated 352,000 other kinds of plants use seeds to protect, disperse, and nourish the next generation, 90% of all plant species. Seeds are essentially an embryo in a box with its lunch inside. The lunch provides baby’s first meals and nourishes the embryonic plant until it can live independently. The box is the moisture-resistant, tough seed coat that physically and chemically protects the developing embryo. Typically, the box opens at germination, and the embryo eats the lunch as it puts down a root and sends up leaves.

Seeds are everywhere around us. When you eat your breakfast, you are usually eating the seeds of the wheat plant and drinking the seeds of the coffee plant. Our diet consists, to a surprisingly large extent, of seed foods we love, from chocolate chip cookies to pretzels, popcorn, nuts, and beer. Why are seeds so successful? Why did they win out as a reproductive strategy? Conservation biologist Thor Hanson, in “The Triumph of Seeds,” believes there are five basic reasons:

1. Seeds unite two sets of genes and are the result of sexual reproduction, mixing and remixing genes constantly, providing the variety upon which evolutionary fitness relies. Cloning and asexual reproduction never mix genes in a predictable way, and plants using spores only interbreed occasionally. Sexual reproduction gives plants an advantage...

The Holy Orchid
A George and Matilda Short Story
Harold Koopowitz © 2017
4 pages, 3 photos

"I am not sure that anyone can believe the story that Mr. Frederick Boyle wrote about in the Woodland Orchids,” Great-aunt Bertha said. “It is so far-fetched.”

“Which one? There are so many,” Matilda asked.

“That story about Bulbophyllum barbigerum,” Great-aunt answered. “Mr. Boyle must have been smoking something strange when he wrote that story. And yet, I wonder if there is a kernel of truth buried deep inside it.” She went over to a bookcase that held expensive antique books about orchids and extracted a volume. “Here.” She handed it to Matilda. “It’s the last story in the book. You know it’s the sort of crazy adventure I could see George and William getting involved with. Maybe as you read it, you can imagine them as the main characters?”

Matilda took the book and settled down in an easy chair to read....