2 SUBGENUS BRACHYPETALUM Hillier

This group of plants is often known by the name 'dwarf white lady slippers'. All the species in this group have lips which lack small ear like lobes (auricles).

Cribb (105) notes the species are confined to mainland South East Asia from north west China south to northern Malaysia. They grow naturally on limestone formations. Cribb (105) notes all the species have a chromosome number of 2n = 26

Cribb (105) places these species in his Subgenus Brachypetalum, Section Parvisepalum.


5 species are included:-

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P. bellatulum
P. concolor
P. godefroyae
P. leucochilum
P. niveum
GENERAL


a. PAPHIOPEDILUM BELLATULUM (Rchb.f) Stein

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This species was first introduced into European cultivation in 1888 by Messrs Low and Co (4). Williams (10) noted in 1894 that "this is a superb….. summer flowering species." As was the custom, its introduction was accompanied by a cloud of secrecy regarding its origin.

They have in-rolled lip margins, and are of dwarf habit with thick mottled leaves which show purplish markings on their undersides.

It is a small terrestrial plant growing up to 100 mm tall, With leaves 170 to 250 mm long, 75-85 mm broad, deep green above, sparingly mottled, deep purple- spotted below. Short single flowered inflorescences are produced, the flower touching the leaves, each flower 70 mm or more broad, white or pale yellow, conspicuously spotted purple-brown. (8)

It is found on the Khorat Plateau of Thailand and the Shan Plateau of Burma, growing on moss covered stony outcrops, or near bamboo thickets. It is in stunted forests where the plants receive bright reflected light. The surrounding trees are deciduous, and more light reaches the plants in winter when the overhead trees loose their leaves.(3) It grows at between 1000 and 1500 metres altitude. (105)


Meta Held (11), in an article on the Burmese P. bellatulum, describes the home of that species on the Shan Plateau. This species grows between 1000 to 1300 metres altitude. The climate of Burma is dominated by the summer monsoon. 90% of the annual rainfall (some 1400 mm, 55 inches) falls during this period which runs from mid November to March. During the winter (June-July) conditions are cool, with low night temperatures of 10 degrees celsius. Day temperatures are 20 to 25 degrees celsius (11) and conditions are dry, although Burmese collectors of this species have stated that the forests involved never completely dry out, as moisture always remains under a cover of leaf detritus and leaf mould in a constantly humid atmosphere.


Another aspect of the habitat noted was the constant movement of the saturated atmosphere. Analysis of the soils in which the plants where growing indicated a pH of 7.6 to 7.7, a much more neutral soil than the more acid conditions under which most orchids live.

Fowlie (12) notes the plants have been found growing lightly wedged into vertical and horizontal fissures, with their roots buried into a clay loam, covered by a humus and leaf mould topdressing. The plants grow in airy situations in a humid moist atmosphere, where they receive bright reflected light. Surrounding trees are deciduous, affecting seasonal light levels. New growths show by December, the start of the summer monsoon, being completed by the end of that season - April. Cooler conditions are then experienced, and humidity falls. New growths are fully matured by June with a period of rest from July to September. The dry cool rest period is essential for success with these plants.

Birk (3) states that it can be grown cooler that the other species of this group, requiring cooler nights to keep it in good health. It blooms better when given a winter rest period cool dry conditions. It is naturally summer flowering (November, December, January), although can variously flower under cultivation. Good drainage conditions must always be provided, but with constant root moisture. As with all members of this group, soluble salts must not be allowed to accumulate. The use of pure rainwater is essential if any doubt exists about the quality of water available.

Schaffer (9) notes that by 1976 29 primaries had been registered with this species, leading all other paphiopedilum species in award winning primary crosses. (19) It is noted it passes on a rounded, striking form to all its crosses, and is very dominant in breeding.

Muir 116 notes this grows in China, but at the northern extreme of its habitat, and has not been exported from this location.

b PAPHIOPEDILUM CONCOLOR (Batem.) Stein

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Discovered by the Rev. C. Parish in 1859, it was not introduced into European cultivation until 1865. (4) Growing some 200 mm tall, its 1 to 2 flowered inflorescence is up to 100 mm high. Flowers are 50-75 mm tall, pale yellow spotted finely with purple. Growing in hollows in limestone rock, it comes from Burma, Thailand, North and South Vietnam, Kampuchea and South China. (7)

It is found from sea level to some 500 metres altitude, and likes to be near the ocean or streams. It prefers water seepage areas, growing in moss or leafy humus. The winters of its native habitat are cool and dry during our equivalent Southern Hemisphere May to October early November. Little rain falls, but there is fog and nightly dews. June average temperatures run from 9 degrees celsius during the nights, and up to 24 degrees ceases during the day. October is the hottest - 31 and 17 degrees celsius being average day/night temperatures. The wet south west monsoon brings heavy rainfall from November to April. Requiring moderately bright conditions, it requires a dry cooler rest in June and July when night temperatures should be some 10 degrees celsius lower than the summer night time high. Cribb (105) notes it has the most widespread species of this group, growing both as a terrestrial and a lithophyte.

Fowlie has described (13) this species and a number of colour variants, with excellent illustrations. In this article, he notes that Paphiopedilum concolor grows some 150 to 300 metres lower altitude than does P. bellatulum, and further south towards the equator. Accordingly, P. concolor grows some 5 degrees celsius warmer than that species, and without the same extremes in natural rainfall.

Schaffer (9) notes 21 primaries had been registered to 1976. 14 had received awards. although only 3 of these are 'recent'.

Muir 116 notes this form is different from the Thailand one, and is found growing in China in limestone crevices close to the coast in mixed forests. Fowlie 133 discusses the Chinese habitat in detail. The area features steep rounded limestone mountains along meandering rivers. There are 150 metre high sheer cliffs. Paphiopedilum concolor grows in fissures holding decaying vegetative matter in moisture seepage areas, shaded by Pandanus and gnarled old trees. The area is subjected to the wet summer monsoon from mid October (Southern Hemisphere equivalent months) to mid March, a period of heavy rainfall and overcast skies. Winters are dry but heavy dews provide essential moisture. The plants receive much reflected light.

c PAPHIOPEDILUM GODEFROYAE (Godefr.) Stein

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M. Godefroy Lebeuf from Paris introduced this species into European cultivation in 1876, forwarding plants from the discoverer Mr. Murton, a former employee of the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, England. (4) It was formally described in 1883.(8)

Cribb (105) notes this species presents some taxonomic problems as it is a variable species win which some forms approach the flower shape and colouring of bellatulum, with others having the colouring of paler forms of concolor, and others the flower size of niveum.

Closely related to Paphiopedilum bellatulum and P. niveum, it grows 150 mm tall. The inflorescence is 30 to 100 mm tall, and is 1 to 2 flowered. Flowers are 50 - 75 mm in diameter, white or pale yellow, lightly or heavily spotted magenta. It is found in South Vietnam, Thailand and adjacent islands, and in Burma.(8) It grows predominantly on limestone (8), in rocky clefts, in bright but slightly shaded situations, at 3 to 20 metres altitude. It blooms in September to November, after a drier cooler rest in June. (3)

Cribb (105) has noted that plants from the eastern side of peninsular Thailand have been separated by Fowlie from godefroyae var. leucochilum to specific rank as Paphiopedilum leucochilum, confining Paphiopedilum godefroyae to plants from the western coast. Cribb does not agree to this approach believing habitats and flower differences do not warrant separation. Because of the degree of variation within the species, he believes it is still an actively evolving species. Fowlie 142 discusses the history of this species, habitats and nomenclature issues.

Paphiopedilum ang thong is believed to have characteristics between the range of this species and Cribb 105 believes plants of this ‘species’ should be included under Paphiopedilum godefroyae.

20 primaries have been registered up to 1976, 7 of which have received awards. (9)

d PAPHIOPEDILUM LEUCOCHILUM (Rolfe) Fowl.

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This has only relatively recently been given specific rank (1975), although was described as a varietyof P. godefroyae in 1894. (5) Native of the Gulf of Krabi, Thailand, it also grows on limestone cliffs, in clefts or solution pits filled with mosses or humus, in broken shade but receiving very early and very late sun. They grow at 5 to 20 metres altitude, usually directly above ocean water. Flowering in October to December, they require a cool dry rest in June and July. It needs high humidity levels to grow well, appreciating moss around its roots. It takes bright sun if air circulation and humidity are maintained at optimum levels. (3)

See Cribb (105) and notes under Paphiopedilum godefroyae for discussion on this plant which he does not agree that id deserves its elevation to a valid species.

e PAPHIOPEDILUM NIVEUM (Rchb.f) Stein

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Initially described in 1869, it first arrived in Europe in a collection of P. concolor plants. The specific name niveum' refers to the pure white of the flowers.(4)

260 mm tall, there are 1 to 2 f lowers per inflorescence, which grows to some 170 mm tall. The individual flowers are 75 mm in diameter, white in colour, with fine purple spots at the base of the sepals and petals. Growing close to the sea, it is found in the Langkwai Islands of West Malaysia, Thailand, and possibly the Tambelan Islands, although Asher (5) states it is not found in the last habitat. Closely related to P. godefroyae and P. bellatulum intermediate geographic variants are said to occur and further field work may show that these three species may be merely forms of one widespread species, or alternatively, that hybridisation has occurred in nature. (8)

Growing at 10 to 70 metres altitude in moss filled cracks in limestone rocks, it receives bright reflected light from the sea, but is out of direct sun. December to January (in Southern Hemisphere equivalent months) flowering, it needs a dry rest during June and July, a drop in temperature not apparently required for bud initiation. Considered easy to grow, it likes moss in the potting mix, and appreciates copious volumes of water during December to April. Bright light encourages heavy flower production, but plants can look stressed unless good air movement and high humidity can be maintained.

There are a number of varietal forms; alba with pure white flowers, and punctatissimum, punctatum, regnieri, reticulatum, and roseum and the forms majum and radicans, all of which should be treated as cultivars. 105

Schaffer (9) notes 26 primaries had been. registered to 1976, of which 12 had been awarded, although only 3 are 'recent' awards.

General

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Paphiopedilum ang thong Fowl. was originally described as a species, but work by Karasawa (14) has confirmed this is a natural hybrid between P. godefroyae and P. niveum. Mrs Held has visited the Ang Thong Archipelago, located in the Gulf of Siam east of the Isthmus of Kra. Her comments (15) on the habitat of this hybrid is indicative of the low altitude habitats of this grouping of plants. Plants where growing on limestone a few metres above the sea. They where imbedded in cracks, surrounding grass affording some shade, but where still subject to bright light, and in situations where they were subject to very good ventilation.

All the species of this group require intermediate to warm temperatures, with a winter rest period of cooler drier conditions - winter temperatures 5 to 10 degrees celsius lower than high summer night temperatures. All these plants require a high level of humidity to be maintained. They are very susceptible to salt build up in the potting mix, and therefore fertilisers must be used with care. Flush the mix frequently with copious water. Watch that salt concentrations are not high just prior to the plants being subjected to drier conditions in the early winter. If high salt concentrations do exist, the lowering of the water level will increase the existing salt concentrations in the water in the container possibly to the level were damage to the roots can occur.

The inclusion of moss in the mix is beneficial, in fact some plants, especially sickly ones, can be grown in straight live sphagnum moss.

Generally all BRACHYPETALUM species require good bright light for best flowering, but such conditions must be accompanied by good ventilation and humidity levels.

All of the species are characterised by attractive light and dark green tessellated (rnottled) foliage.

Nash (78) talking about the plants from this section states they are notoriously difficult to grow well, but relatively easy to flower, if the plant can be kept alive. He notes that the best way to succeed with paphiopedilums is to acquire the most vigorous and healthy plants possible at the outset. Nowhere is this more vital than with this group.

Remember,
growing orchids is all about enjoying your plants
and sharing your growing success with friends and family.

Good luck and good growing.

 
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Site established 9th May 1998
Paphiopedilum series first uploaded 8th December 1999