Cribb 105 places these plants in his Subgenus Paphiopedilum Section Paphiopedilum. Cribb notes the plants he includes in this section are characterised by single flowered inflorescences and green, untessellated leaves. Typically the chromosome number is 2n = 26 except P. spicerianum and possibly P. druryi counts 22 = 26 and 30. 105
3 species are included:-
Fowlie and Tang 121 provide more background to the history of this species together with some excellent photographs.
Moir notes this species in China grows on the eastern flank of the Guizhou plateau at an altitude of some 700 to 900 metres altitude. 116
First described in 1940 it remained unknown until rediscovered some 45 years later by Mark amongst a shipment of Paphiopedilum esquirolei. 122
The original studies indicated this was a lithophyte growing some 700 to 700 metres altitude in north west Guangxi, China. In Guizhou Fowlie 141 visited a habitat between two mountains. The ‘throat’ channelled the air down during the wet season. The geographic form ensured plenty of air movement. On large moss covered limestone boulders this species grew, especially in deep shade. The area is subjected to heavy rains during the summer monsoon, with higher temperatures. The winters are cool and dry, and bright. 141
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This species is October to November flowering, (Southern Hemisphere equivalent months) requiring a winter temperature drop of some 10 degrees celsius from the summer night high for bud initiation. Also, water must be withheld for 6 weeks in June and July. It appreciates intermediate conditions, although will grow well in most climates. It produces numerous new growths each year, but only flowers on mature growths which may take three years. It also likes copious water during its period of summer growth.(3)
Schaffer (9) notes no primaries have been registered under this specific name. The third edition of the Handbook of Orchid Nomenclature and Registration (27) states that for horticultural use and registration P. hirsutissimum must be used.
This is also found in the extreme south west part of China, at high elevations. 116
Fowlie 130 discusses a Chinese habitat. This species is found above caverns which have formed in limestone country, in similar situations to the Thailand P. bellatulum for example. Ion th studied locations the P. esquirolei grew above the cave openings, where cool moist air emerging from the opening bathed the surrounding forest with steady currents of moist air. The plants had sprouted in the moss and lichen covered roots of the covering trees. The site was at 1100 – 1200 metres altitude. Howlie notes the easy cultivation of this species – "coming from a humid shady cold place it could literally be uprooted in a greenhouse, tossed under the bench and still thrive. The native habitat was just like that" 130.
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In 1857 the species was first sent to England by an orchid collector by the name of Simons, its habitat remaining unknown. In 1868-69 the orchid grower John Day of Tottenham England received a few plants from his nephew, Captain Williamson, who had gathered them on the Assam side of the Khasia Hills. (4)
Whereas P. esquirolei, or form of this species, P. hirsutissimum var. esquirolei requires some warmth for optimum growth, P. hirsutissimum is a cool grower. It flowers in September to November on mature growths. The flower sheath is made up the year after the growths mature, in the second or third year. It needs a drop in temperature to around 7 degrees celsius for 30 to 40 days about June (southern Hemisphere equivalent months) to initiate flowers. The plant needs to be heavily watered from December to March, with plenty of heat and humidity. In April lower night temperatures are required, and the level of watering can gradually be reduced. By June, drop temperature to 5degrees celsius and keep dry, misting only to maintain the health of the plants. From July, commence watering again. This follows the climate of its -natural habitat, where high and low winter temperatures range from 17 to 4.5 degrees celsius, summers 30.5 to 17 degrees celsius. Naturally it grows semi terrestrially in thick humus at the base of trees, and on moss covered rocks and along cliff faces in rather dark places. It flowers best in moderately bright conditions, and can take full summer heat provided plenty of water and high humidity levels. are maintained.
Schaffer (9) records 18 primaries have been registered to 1976, with 6 winning awards, although none off these were 'recent’. A cross Schaffer noted was named P. Mishtawawininikak, an Indian name meaning 'the Chippewas who live in Canada as opposed to the Chippewas who live in northern Michigan'. For our sanity it is just as well there are not too many names like that!!
There is some controversy over the status of P. hirsutissimum and its relative P. esquirolei. Schaffer notes that P. esquirolei is usually shorn of hairs, or is very sparsely hairy, and has its petals held at right angle to the main flower axis. Ray Rands notes it is also a very strong parent, carrying pods well which mature in six months and produce much viable seed. P. hirsutissimum on the other hand is said to mature pods very slowly (taking 18 months as compared with the usual 9 months), with little viable seed. Schaffer also states P. hirsutissimum is much more hairy, and that the petals are borne 15 degrees from the right angle axis of the flower. It is also said the leaves are broader than those of P. esquirolei when grown under identical light conditions. (9). Not withstanding these comments, the assessment of Cribb and Tang (7) should be noted, as recorded under P. esquirolei.
Paphiopedilum chiwuanum Tang and Wang was first discovered in 1951, being found in the Yunnan Province of China. It was found growing on rocks at some 700 metres altitude. In 1976 S.C. Chen considered it was only P. hirsutissimum, and Cribb and Tang (7) state that they see 'no reason to disagree with him'. Asher (5) and Birk (3) still include it as a separate species in their lists. Cribb 105 agrees, noting its smaller flowers suggests its recognition as a variety is warranted - P. hirsutissimum var chiwuanum
One of the smallest species in the genus, both interms of plant and flower size. Koopowitz 153 notes it is distinctive and while related to barbigerum, it is clearly quite different.
Both P. esquirolei and P. hirsutissimum, whether you consider them the same or different species, are very attractive and distinctive, growing and. flowering easily. When grown into specimen clumps, a quite spectacular display is created.
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Site established 9th May 1998
Paphiopedilum series first uploaded 8th December 1999