Archives For paphiopedilum

On this Valentine’s Day weekend—which also marks the opening of the Orchid Show!—we share two tales of love, both about the same ravishingly beautiful flower, commonly called the Lady’s Slipper Orchid.

The first story has its roots in the ancient Greek myths. Flower legend says that the goddess Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans) was out hunting with the handsome mortal Adonis, when a powerful storm forced them to seek shelter together in a cave. Love ensued. Post-storm, the lovers ran off—Venus, minus one slipper. A mortal human came across the shoe and reached down to pick it up, when suddenly and magically it transformed into a flower with a slipper-shaped petal of gold.

PHOTO: Orchid in bloom.

Cypripedium calceolus slipper orchid

The Lady’s Slipper orchid’s beautiful binomial (two-part) Latin name, Cypripedium calceolus, was given it by none other than Linnaeus himself (Carl von Linné), who listed it in Species Plantarum in 1753. The great botanist packed a lot of meaning into that name: Cyprus was the sacred island of Venus’s birth, pedilon is the word for slipper, and calceolus means little shoe.

The Lady’s Slipper orchid is native to a broad swatch of the temperate world, from Europe through Asia. While still common in some wild areas, the orchid’s beauty has made it over-loved in others—it is now considered extinct in Greece, the very home of its ancient legend.

And that brings us to our second love story.

The flower fervor that swept through Britain in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries not only raised demand for the exotic plants of the world but also took a toll on the native plants of the English countryside. Loss of habitat and over-collection by humans diminished the native Lady’s Slipper Orchid’s numbers until, in the early 1980s, just one plant remained in the wild in the entire country.

PHOTO: "Orchid-gami" of a showy lady's slipper orchid.

Make your own lady’s slipper orchid—no watering required! Just print this 2-sided template from the NAOCC, cut, and fold!

Placed under last-resort protection, it was nurtured along until it gained strength and eventually bloomed. Its seeds were collected and sent to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where a conservation program was put into place. Eventually, the difficult-to-germinate seeds germinated. Seedlings, which take 5 to 10 years to flower, have since been re-introduced into the wild in an attempt to re-populate the species there.

This modern-day love story has devotion and commitment and conservation at its heart.

At the Orchid Show, you’ll learn more about the orchid conservation efforts that the Chicago Botanic Garden is committed to—including the work of the North American Orchid Conservation Center, which sponsors a terrific website about our continent’s native orchids at goorchids.northamericanorchidcenter.org.

PHOTO: Cypripedium Gisela gx Lady's Slipper orchid.

This Cypripedium Gisela lady’s slipper cultivar can be found blooming in the Heritage Garden in late May.

While there won’t be any Cypripedium calceolus plants in bloom at the Orchid Show (they’re terrestrial orchids that don’t bloom until spring), lots of other slipper orchids in the Paphiopedilum and Phragmipedium genera will capture your imagination and attention.

Take a selfie with your favorite and share it #theorchidshow @chicagobotanic. Hashtag your favorite orchid #cbgOrchid16 to enter our Instagram photo contest. Want to learn more about orchids? Read our blog posts!

And have a Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

A Paphiopedilum, or lady slipper orchid, is another popular orchid with collectors: it prefers high humidity and indirect light, faring best in eastern early morning light. But how do you ensure early success?

PHOTO: Closeup of a Paphiopedilum micranthum slipper orchid bloom.

Paphiopedilum micranthum lady slipper orchid bloom

Just as we learned in our first video, Repotting Orchids, Part 1: Phalaenopsis, it’s always best to repot your orchids shortly after purchasing them—the sphagnum moss in which they are sold provides too much constant moisture for the plant, and can damage the delicate, epiphytic root system.

Anne Nies, a master’s degree candidate in the Garden and Northwestern University’s Plant Biology & Conservation program, is an expert in all things orchids, both native and tropical. She is also a member of the Illinois Orchid Society, which holds its spring and fall orchid shows at the Garden. She took some time this past fall to show me (and you) how to repot our orchids to maintain a healthy growing environment.

Our second video details step-by-step instructions for repotting a Paphiopedilum orchid, which has different watering and culture needs from a Phalaenopsis. After your initial purchase and repotting, you should repot your orchid when your plant has finished blooming.

Mark your calendars for the Garden’s newest exhibition, the Orchid Show (purchase tickets here). Orchid lovers of all levels are sure to learn a lot more about orchids at the show. Can’t wait!


©2013 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org