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Excerpts from

VOLUME 82, NO. 4—October, November, December 2018


An Annotated Checklist of Paphiopedilum Species
Harold Koopowitz
58 pages, 184 photos

Paphiopedilum ayubianum
©Olaf Gruss

Paphiopedilum bungebelangii
©Dody Nugrohu

Paphiopedilum victoria-regina var. kalinae
©Trudi Marsh

The wild paphiopedilum species are the framework upon which modern hybrid slipper orchids are based. Orchid breeders have been using them for over a century and a half to bring new and often exciting innovations to slipper orchids.

In 2012 the Orchid Digest published A Revised Checklist of the Genus Paphiopedilum (Koopowitz 2000), and this list relied heavily on my earlier work, but new names have now appeared, and surprisingly in 2017 there was a spurt of new species names both to discoveries as well as changes in rank. Lists of accepted orchid names and in particular the taxonomy of those taxa that receive much attention, like the paphiopedilums, present a moving target. There are no rigid laws about the correct names of plant species; however, there is a set of rules and recommendations dealing with the formal botanical names that are given to plants which should be followed in dealing with plant names that is published by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN. This is an attempt to formulate one name that is accepted worldwide. Unfortunately, achieving this is unlikely. There are also “legal lists” of slipper orchid species names that are used for controlling the trade of wild-collected jungle slipper orchid species. These are all placed on Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and international trade in them is forbidden by the signatories of the Convention, and they include most of the countries in the world.

Unless an exception has been made to conserve a unique name, generally the correct name is that which accompanied the first description, provided the description was produced correctly, and a type specimen was designated. What makes for an acceptable description, however, does change with time, e.g., currently, the diagnosis does not need to be written in Latin, but three years ago that was mandatory. Unfortunately, the initial descriptions sometimes get lost and unearthed at a later time long after another name has been in common usage for an extended period. Then unless the name in popular usage is “conserved,” it is replaced with the earlier name. However, some earlier descriptions are so inadequate that one cannot be sure exactly what species the author was describing. Certain taxonomists consider the original description as adequate while others do not, and taxonomists argue about which species is specified in the description. For this reason, among others, names can be fluid. For any good taxonomist, one might expect his/her opinion could change with time as more experience and/or evidence is unearthed. It has been said (Schelpe, private communication) that taxonomy is straightforward as long as there is only one specimen under consideration. It is the variation within and among populations that creates difficulties in deciding which name is to be given to which taxon...


Paphiopedilum Culture at the Huntington Botanical Gardens
Brandon Tam
8 pages, 14 photos

Paphiopedilum kolopakingii are some of the largest specimens in the collection.
©Brandon Tam

As I write this article, I am on a flight to the Second World Slipper Orchid Conference in Hilo, Hawaii. I cannot find a better opportunity to set the mood to write about paphiopedilum culture than here on this plane, anxiously awaiting to arrive at the conference. Between all the paphiopedilums I will see and the endless poke I will get to eat, its makes this trip an incredibly exciting and mouth drooling one. The last time I was in Hawaii was about 16 years ago, at the age of eight. With a greater appreciation for travel, food, and orchids, this trip will be better than the last!

I have been asked to write about paphiopedilum culture because of the success we have been having with cultivating our paphiopedilum collection at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. I must admit, the way we grow paphiopedilums at the institution is astray from typical literature and can be considered taboo or blasphemy to certain people. To those who are open-minded, I ask you to continue reading. For those who like to stick to traditional culture and literature, I ask you to still read on in hopes that I can sway your opinion and perspective on how to grow paphiopedilums. The Huntington has won over 100 American Orchid Society awards in the past three years including five First Class Certificates (FCC), three Cultural Certificates of Excellence (CCE), five Certificates of Cultural Merit (CCM), and three Special Annual Awards. Eight of the awards were for cultural excellence. There are two parts to winning an award: a good clone and excellent culture.

My boss, James P. Folsom, Director of the Botanical Gardens, told me the following on the very first day I joined The Gardens as an intern working with the orchid collection: “Growing orchids is like cooking. There are many different techniques or recipes for cooking a dish, but as long as you are able to produce a delicious meal, you will have succeeded.” This philosophy guides me when it comes to growing not just paphiopedilums but any orchid!

Before I begin with culture details, you may be wondering how I decided what I think is the best culture for growing paphiopedilums. When I first stepped through the greenhouse doors of The Huntington, I had zero professional experience in growing orchids and grew only cymbidiums as a hobby in my parents’ backyard. We all know that growing cymbidiums in Southern California does not make you a qualified orchid specialist which meant I had little to no experience when I first joined the collection. Six months into my internship, a collection of over 7,000 paphiopedilums was donated by the estate of S. Robert Weltz. How did I learn to grow all these paphiopedilums in such a short period of time? Through trial and error. Simple as that. Unfortunately, I am a product of my generation, and we do not read as much as we should which means that literature had almost no influence on my journey of learning how to grow paphiopedilums...

Paphiopedilum papilio-laoticus A Recent Discovery from Laos
André Schuiteman and Sulivong Luang Aphay
5 pages, 8 photos

Paphiopedilum papilio-laoticus
©Adunyadeth Luang Aphay

In most countries in Southeast Asia, there is, unfortunately, an ongoing trade in wild-collected orchids that are sold in street markets and local nurseries, not to mention the internet. Species new to science are sometimes discovered among plants found in this trade. A well-known example is Paphiopedilum vietnamense from, as you might have guessed, Vietnam. Because dealers are usually not willing to disclose where the plants come from, there are cases where we still don’t know the origin of such new species. Coelogyne alboaurantia was found under a wrong name among plants exported from Thailand, but at the time of writing it has not yet been established where it occurs in the wild. Examples of new species first found in the trade can be given for Laos too. Dendrobium lamyaiae, a species endemic in central Laos, was first described (initially spelled as Den. lanyaiae) from plants offered by a Thai nursery. In 2014, the bizarre Paphiopedilum rungsuriyanum was similarly “discovered” at a Thai nursery, the plants having been smuggled out of their country of origin, Laos.

In late May 2018, dozens, maybe hundreds, of large, obviously wild-collected plants of a showy Paphiopedilum species suddenly appeared in the stall of a dealer in wild orchids in the Laotian capital Vientiane. Many of these plants were in flower and photographs were soon distributed on the internet, leading to speculations as to what they might be. Some pundits proposed unlikely hybrid parentages, such as Paph. lawrenceanum crossed with a species of the Paph. villosum alliance. Meanwhile, alerted by his friend Yosuke Oda, the second author obtained some of these plants and discussed them with Shunsuke Iio, who suggested that it was an undescribed species. Flowers were carefully dissected, measurements made, and numerous photographs were sent to the first author at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, who confirmed that it was most likely a new species, and, because of its large flower size and attractive coloring, a spectacular one at that...

Slipper Orchids and Cites, A Bankrupt and Useless Policy
Harold Koopowitz
5 pages, 5 photos

Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum var. esquirolei growing in the Guangxi Yachang Orchid Germplasm Gene Park.
Note the robust clumps of plants in the wild.
©S. Hampson

It is now nearly thirty years since the genera Paphiopedilum and Phragmipedium were up-listed to Appendix 1 of CITES. It is a legitimate length of time to ask what the effect of CITES has been on maintaining threatened species.

Appendix 1 is a list of animal and plant species that are considered so threatened that unless given special protection from international trade they will inevitably go extinct. Familiar animals on the list are elephants, rhinos, snow leopards, and panda bears. The two genera Paphiopedilum and Phragmipedium were put on the lists by misguided Europeans who thought they knew best how to protect these species. At that time, the number of plants recorded in the trade was exaggerated by them. It is worthwhile explaining what happened. It was essential to show that trade in the species was unsustainable to prove that up-listing was needed. It appeared that for some species, hundreds of specimens were being exported annually. In fact, the numbers lied. In those days, after wild slipper orchids were collected, the clumps were broken into single growths because they could be sold separately, and what might have been collected as a single plant of ten fans of leaves ended up being recorded as ten individuals. The trade numbers were nearly all exaggerations. The late Joyce Stewart and I pointed this out when we argued against the up-listing of the two genera, but we were ignored. The truth worked against the argument for up-listing.

Other arguments were also based on misconceptions. Phragmipedium besseae had recently been discovered and was creating a sensation. It was argued that this species was confined to a small corner of Peru and unless trade was stopped, it would surely go extinct. In fact, this is a widespread species in the adjacent country of Ecuador. To this day, the original site of the species discovery still contains Paph. besseae plants. There had been little interest in Phragmipedium species until the genus was transferred to Appendix 1, whereupon a demand for the species was created. However, even with the increased demand for species today, few of the species are endangered.

At that time, three species of Paphiopedilum were being imported, and there was a large demand for them. These were Paph. armeniacum, Paph. micranthum, and Paph. sanderianum. The numbers recorded in the trade of the first two were in the thousands, but those were single growths. In the wild, individual plants of Paph. armeniacum and Paph. micranthum could contain fifty to a hundred growths. So, the numbers in the trade had little to do with the actual numbers of plants being collected. For Paphiopedilum sanderianum, however, there was legitimate concern because the plants initially offered had been stolen out of a preserve.

It was then argued that one could not expect CITES officers or agricultural inspectors to distinguish one species from another, especially when they were not in flower, and the only way to protect the endangered species was to up-list all Paphiopedilum and Phragmipedium species. Again, this was not a rational argument because the officials could not, in any case, differentiate species from hybrids, but hybrids were allowed to remain on Appendix 2 where the entire orchid family resided.

Up-listing to Appendix 1 is done by a vote of the countries that are parties to the convention. Most of the voters are not plant people but more concerned with animals. They merely followed the recommendation of the plant’s committee that was at that time based on false data....


Creating Your Own Pollen Bank
Harold Koopowitz
3 pages, 8 photos

Position the capsule around the anther
and scoop the anther into the capsule.
©Harold Koopowitz

The ability to store pollen allows an orchid hybridizer increased freedom for choosing parents of a cross. Without a pollen bank, the breeder is limited to only using two plants that are in flower simultaneously. Orchids do not bloom every year, and even if they are dependable performers, there can be a wide disparity in their normal flowering times. For example, I breed mini paphiopedilums. The smallest flowers, based primarily on Paphiopedilum charlesworthii and P. henryanum and their hybrids, start to flower in September and October in my region. My peak season, however, for insigne-type slippers is January, by which time the early minis have already faded from the scene.

Storing pollen is easy and convenient, and I wonder why so few people do it. Paphiopedilum pollen will stay viable for at least four or five years in your refrigerator. One does not need to freeze it. Pollen from other orchid genera can be stored similarly, but the longevity of those is often shorter than that of slipper orchids.

What Makes a Good Paphiopedilum Flower?
Harold Koopowitz
11 pages, 5 photos

The story of paphiopedilums is one of variation. In the wild, one hardly ever finds two individual plants with identical flowers, and this variation is even more exaggerated when one considers hybrids. It is a truism that the percentage of acceptable flowers from a cross between two standard complex hybrids is abysmally small. Hybrids from other sections such as the Maudiae-type hybrids in section Barbatum and those with only Brachypetalum species in their backgrounds have much larger percentages of good flowers. The problems with standard complex paphiopedilums are often more than just producing gawky looking flowers; it is not unusual for flower parts to be distorted. The standard complex paphiopedilums are primarily hybrids derived from Paph. insigne and its close relatives such as Paph. villosum and Paph. spicerianum. But, during the approximately century and a half that these complex hybrids have been made, species from other sections have also been added into the mix. Chromosome numbers are often aneuploid, meaning that uneven numbers of chromosomes occur, and this tends to lead to sterility among other problems. Hybridizers sometimes say that the genome is unbalanced, and this is cited as the reason for distorted flowers...