Section Venustum Fowlie

Until two additional species were discovered, Paphiopedilum venustum was included by Pfitzer with the Spathopetalum species. Recent discoveries and studies have indicated that these three species have developed from a single ancestor, and for this reason this section was created

Cribb 105 places these plants in his Subgenus Paphiopedilum Section Barbata. He places 24 species in this section, distinguished usually by one flowered inflorescences and tessellated leaves. Chromosome numbers vary from 2n = 28-34.

3 species are included:-



b. PAPHIOPEDILUM VENUSTUM (Wall ex. Simms) Pfitz.




Return to top

This attractive, easily grown species reaches 300 mm tall. Its tessellated leaves are up to 130 mm long and 50 mm wide in average specimens. The single flowered inflorescence is up to 250 mm high. Flowers are broader than they are long. The dorsal sepal is white or pale green lined with darker green. The synsepalum is white lined with green. Petals are pale yellow-green spotted all over with deep purple. The lip is pale green, veined and mottled deep purple, the side lobes also purple mottled. (8)

Bechtel Cribb and Launert state this species is closely related to Paphiopedilum wardii. Schoser and Senghas in their original description of this species in 1965 state it is distinct from P. wardii, as it lacks any purple markings on the underside of its leaves. In addition, the petals are held more closely to the horizontal position, and lack the slight apical twist of P. wardii. They, however, conclude that because of the limited geographic distribution of P. sukhakulii and its undoubted resemblance to P. wardii, this may indicate 'that with further study it should more realistically be treated as a subspecies or variety of the later'.(8). Cribb 105 notes that it is very close to P. wardii, and believes that its recognition as a separate species may not be warranted, but has not made that change until more material becomes available.

Paphiopedilum sukhakulii was introduced into European cultivation in 1864 when Fritzer and Netzer from Germany found a plant growing in recently imported specimens of Paphiopedilum callosum from Thailand. It was named after P. Sukhakul of Thailand, whose company collected the original plants. (8)

It is native of the Phu Luang Mountains, Loei, Thailand It grows semi terrestrially in sandy loam and decomposed leaf mould, along mountain streams in the partial shade of large trees. It is found at an altitude of 250 to 900 metres above sea level. (3) Its natural habitat experiences heavy prolonged rains from December to April, when temperatures may reach 33 degrees celsius during the day, dropping to 18 degrees celsius at night. In late April the north cast monsoon brings cooler dry winds. By May there are only occasional rains, with cool nights. June and July (Southern Hemisphere equivalent months) are quite cool, days averaging 20 degrees celsius, nights 8 degrees celsius. It warms in September, and October is the hottest month. (3) It naturally flowers in August to October after a June and July rest. It likes moderately bright light under culture, in intermediate growing temperatures.(3) It is an exceptionally easy species to grow and flower and often blooms twice a year, and quickly reaches specimen size.

While this species is of relatively recent introduction, 13 primary hybrids had been registered to 1976, 2 crosses winning awards .(9)

b. PAPHIOPEDILUM VENUSTUM (Wall ex. Simms) Pfitz.

Return to top
This terrestrial species can grow up to 400 mm tall. The leaves, rnottled very dark and lighter green, deep purple below, are 170 to 290 mm long, 45 mm broad. The inflorescence is 170 to 300 mm long, bearing a flower 60 mm long, 80 mm broad. The dorsal sepal is white, tinged with green. Petals are green at their base, lined with darker green, purple in the tip half, with a few black spots. The lip is bronze- green, lined darker green, paler within. (8)

It was discovered by Dr. N. Wallich in Sylhet, North East India, early in the 19th Century, and was introduced, according to Dr Sims, from the Botanical Garden of Calcutta by Messrs Whitley Brames and Milne, who flowered it that year before its formal description in 1820. Birk (3) notes its date of introduction into European cultivation as 1816. This was the first paphiopedilum to be discovered and described and introduced into European cultivation. 105

The well known variety pardinum, has larger flowers with sepals of a purer white and with veins broader and of a deeper green. It was introduced to the Royal Botanical Garden of Kew England, and was described in 1887. (4)

P. venustum has been widely utilised in the breeding of modern hybrids, playing a large role in the ancestry of many of the more important hybrids. (8)

It grows on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, Darjeeling and Sikkim, and also found in the Assam region north of the Bramaputra River. In India it grows in the dense jungle undergrowth at the bases of cliffs and shaded ledges, in humus or in dense bamboo thickets. It is also found on muddy river banks or in the crotches of trees, in accumulated pockets of mosses and humus. Its altitude ranges from 900 to 1500 metres above sea level. It is July to September flowering, needing a May to June rest. It also needs warmth and moisture during the summer, with cooler winter conditions. It is an easy species to grow and flower. (3)

Its natural habitat receives heavy persistent rainfall from December to April, when temperatures can reach 32 degrees celsius, remaining above 18 degrees at night. In late April the north east monsoon arrives, and it becomes drier and cooler. By May there are infrequent showers, with temperatures falling to 20 degrees celsius during the day, and to around 6 degrees celsius at night during June and July. Then there are few showers, but frequent fogs, dews and continuous cloud cover. September starts to warm up, and convectional rainfall also commences. The habitat is never completely dry. (3)

While this is a distinctly mottled leaved species, it is able to be grown cooler, especially during the winter, than most of the species with similar leaves, more like the plain green leaved single flowered paphiopedilum species.

29 primaries have been registered to 1976, 2 only having received awards - both in 1890 !(9)


Return to top
This species was originally encountered by Mr. F. Kingdon Ward who completed many expeditions into the mountainous districts of Central Asia during the 1920's. He found this species in relatively inaccessible valleys near Fort Hertz in north east Burma. Ward noted 'in the winter of 1922 I found one plant in flower, on one of the highest ranges of Tamai, but that later on the same trip the specimen was lost, and no record of it was preserved.' In 1926 he searched the same range of mountains and then obtained plants, and again in 1932. (51)

Fred Thien Pc rediscovered the plant again in 1980, and his story is recorded in the Orchid Digest. (51) It is a somewhat rare species, but is easy to grow and flower if an adequate winter rest is provided. (3) Cribb 105 notes that P. sukhakulii is very close to P. wardii, and believes that the formers recognition as a separate species distinct from the later may not be warranted, but has not made that change until more material becomes available.

Birk (3) notes it is native of the Tamal River Valley and adjoining mountains of North Burma, growing in shady locations on the forest floor in deep pads of leaf litter near the bases of trees, amongst the buttressed trunks. He notes that the plants stand up on their roots with approximately 75% of the plant exposed above the humus. It is only found on cliff faces on moss covered rocks secured by a few loosely attached roots. It occurs at an altitude of 1200 to 1500 metres. It is said to grow poorly in bright light. (3)

It blooms in June to September with the new growth, after a rest for all of June. It likes to be fairly shaded, and appreciates cool to intermediate temperatures. (3)

Its natural Burmese habitat is subject to the north east monsoon from mid March to October when there is high humility, fogs and continuous cloud cover. Little actual rain falls, but there is plenty of moisture. The summer monsoon starts in mid November and lasts to April, with heavy rainfall. Winter temperatures range from 17 to 4.5 degrees celsius, summers 31 to 17 degrees celsius. (3)

No primary hybrids with this species had been registered to 1976. (9)


Return to top

This section, with one old widely grown species, and 2 (or one - depending on ones point of view) more recently introduced species, have striking flowers. All are easily grown, the rnottled leaves becoming more marked in shaded lighting conditions. They need copious watering with warmth during the summer growth period, but can be kept drier and cooler during the winter, although high humidity should always be maintained for their health to be maintained.

P. venustum with its mottled leaves, can be grown cooler than most of the plants with similar tessellated foliage.

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

Good luck and good growing.

Top of page

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