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Excerpts from

VOLUME 83, NO. 3—July, August, September 2019


Calling All Paphiophiles
Harold Koopowitz
2 pages, 7 photos

Paph. philippinense var. laevigatum
©Harold Koopowitz

The Paphiopedilum Guild will be moving to the Huntington in San Marino, California for the 2020 meeting taking place on January 11th and 12th. Reasonably priced hotels and motels are available in Pasadena and Arcadia as well as other nearby cities. This move will help us keep the registration, including meals, at a reasonable cost, so everyone can afford to join us!

The Third World Paphiopedilum Conference will most likely be held in Hilo, Hawai’i on the weekend of January 15th, 16th, and 17th in 2021. Please save the dates for both events on your calendar.

The International Slipper meeting organized by Frank Smith will be the first weekend of November in Orlando, Florida. It is a one-day meeting and is always worthwhile with excellent speakers, and it attracts vendors with excellent slipper orchids.

Last, but not least, the Orchid Digest, in conjunction with Ecuagenera, is planning a new type of event. This will be a workshop on Slipper Orchids to be held in Cuenca, Ecuador in November of 2020. We are planning on a weekend of lectures and laboratory investigations on both phragmipediums and other slipper orchids. Designed with the amateur slipper enthusiast in mind, we will teach you to appreciate the natural history of the slipper orchids and describe the features, functions, and composition of the plant’s organs, i.e., how the leaves, stems, and flowers develop, and how they fit into their ecosystems. In conjunction with the weekend, there will be pre- and post-workshop tours to visit phragmipediums and other orchids in the wild. Attendance at these workshops may have to be limited. If this event is successful, the Orchid Digest hopes to plan other similar workshops in the future but focused on other orchid genera. In future columns in this magazine, I will give more information as our plans develop...


Chiapas’ Amazing Orchids: An Orchid Conservation Alliance ‘Orchids in the Wild’ Tour
Mary Gerritsen
16 pages, 33 photos

Epiphytes at Yaxchilan.
©Dennis Szeszko

The Orchid Conservation Alliance (OCA) is a grassroots organization dedicated to the conservation of wild orchids. We do this by establishing forest reserves to preserve in-situ habitats in places like Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil. Since 2006, the OCA has successfully raised over $300,000, which, together with more than $200,000 in matching funds from the Rainforest Trust, has protected more than 3,250 acres of prime rainforest. One of the most important ways that the OCA raises money is by leading Orchids in the Wild© tours. These tours are open to all and are designed to showcase orchids in their native habitats, in addition to showing the factors, such as deforestation, that imperil their continued existence. Tour participants range from interested backyard orchid growers to professional orchid scientists. The tours are hosted by guides who are experts on the local orchid flora and are accompanied by at least one OCA director.

Last year, I asked my friend and Mexican orchid expert, Dennis Szeszko, if he could plan a Mexican orchid tour itinerary on behalf of the OCA. Dennis has spent over five years studying the native orchids of Mexico State in central Mexico and wrote a beautiful book on Mexican orchids, La Orquideoflora Mexiquense. Most recently, he founded a company (MAS Orchids) that is breeding and developing new varieties of Mexican Barkeria orchids that will be sold as pot plants for the commercial flower market. Dennis was receptive to my request and suggested we focus on Chiapas, a southern Mexican state bordering on Guatemala, which at present is considerably safer than other regions of Mexico that continue to be savaged by rampant criminal gangs and drug cartels. Dennis crafted a fascinating itinerary that would take the tour participants to most of Chiapas’ biomes and allow them to get a first-hand view of some of Mexico’s most emblematic and celebrated orchid species.

The adventure began in Villahermosa, a mid-sized city that is the capital of Tabasco state. Our driver met the group of 15 at the airport, and we were soon whisked off to Palenque about 90 minutes away. After driving through a vast tropical savanna, we eventually crossed the Usumacinta River and headed into Chiapas. It was at this point that we could see the topography begin to change and the foothills of the Central Chiapas Highlands started to rise from the coastal plains...
The Orchid Conservation Alliance - A Brief History
Peter Tobias
2 pages, 2 photos

Ecuador Gap Analysis map.

The Orchid Conservation Alliance (OCA) was founded in 2006 as a California corporation and a 501(c)3 federal tax-exempt organization by Peter Tobias, Ron Kaufmann, and Steve Beckendorf. Tobias and Kaufmann had significant experience with the San Diego County Orchid Society’s (SDCOS) Conservation Committee and Beckendorf was on the American Orchid Society’s Conservation Committee. We all felt that the orchid community was not doing what it could for orchid conservation. So, without anything more formal, we decided to give it a try. We decided that we would try to develop a membership of similarly concerned orchid growers. In this regard, Harold Koopowitz, then the editor of the Orchid Digest, was very helpful by allowing us to insert a recruiting brochure into an issue of the Digest. Harold accompanied that with a fairly passionate editorial urging people to join our nascent OCA. Along the way, we added Rosario Almeida Braga, then the president of the Rio de Janeiro orchid society and its newsletter editor, as well as Mary Gerritsen as directors. Rosario has since resigned but continues her conservation work in Rio de Janeiro. We currently have a mailing list of about 525 individual members as well as about 25 orchid societies...

Dendrobium fytchianum
Roland Schettler
3 pages, 3 photos

Dendrobium fytchianum
©Roland Schettler

For the first five to ten years after starting to grow plants from the genus Dendrobium, you buy and try to cultivate as many as you can obtain. And—what a surprise—some plants do well, and most of them bear yellow flowers. After a few years, nursery owners know that you are looking for Dendrobium species, and they offer you unusual plants. After some more years, they begin to reserve plants for you if they believe that you do not have them.
Herbert Schildhauer of the nursery O&M is a friend of mine, and after Howard Wood died, he and André Schuiteman became the specialists in Dendrobium. More than ten years ago, he gave me a plant of Dendrobium fytchianum, a small plant imported from Thailand that had a few leaves, some roots, but no new growths. I was not surprised when the plant did not grow and went to the orchid heaven to which almost all orchids stolen from the rainforest go. Before that, I had acquired several plants from nurseries around the world; some were imported plants, some were seedlings, but none survived. Saw Lwin from Myanmar, another friend of mine, supplied some nursery-grown plants from Myanmar. They were big plants, but after some years of surviving, they died back to the base.
In December 2012 a plant of Dendrobium fytchianum was given to me from the nursery Schwerter Orchideenzucht. It had no leaves but had flowers at the ends of two stems. It was potted in pure sphagnum moss, and after it had flowered in December, I hung the plant in the roof of my hothouse, but it showed no signs of new life even during some hot days in March.

At the end of April, I took the plants (I found there were two) out of the moss and noticed that they were potted too deeply, which meant that even they were candidates for orchid heaven. The plants had no roots and no growth buds at the base, but they were still alive. I mounted them on a piece of wood with some sphagnum moss to hold water for some hours after spraying, and I sprayed them every other day when the weather was cloudy and every day in the morning or early afternoon when it was sunny. After three weeks, each plant had developed a new shoot—I shall have to wait and see how long they survive...


Phragmipedium richteri and its Hybrids
Olaf Gruss
15 pages, 44 photos

Phragmipedium richteri
©Olaf Gruss


Phragmipedium richteri Roeth et Gruss 1994
Die Orchidee 45 (3): 4. U-Seite; 1994

Phragmipedium amazonica hort. nomen nudum – Only a trade name.
Phragmipedium boissierianum var. minor hort. nomen nudum Die Orchidee 49 (3) (1998): 144.
Phragmipedium peruviana hort. nomen nudum – Only a trade name.
Phragmipedium topperi hort. nomen nudum – Only a trade name mentioned in Die Orchidee 45 (3) (1994): 4. back cover.
Phragmipedium – Natural hybrid Bennett et Christensen. Icones Orchidacearum Peruviarum Pl. 154. (1993).

Geographical Distribution:
According to Schunke, these terrestrial plants occur in Peru in the district of La Banda de Shilcayo.

The plants grow at an elevation of around 600 m (1,968 ft.) in montane rainforests on wet rocks (according to the information from Schunke).

Climate at the habitat:
The temperature is quite constant throughout the year with a maximum of about 30°C (86°F) and a minimum of 17-19°C (63-66°F). While precipitation is quite low from January to March, it increases significantly from April to June. It then drops off again until September when it rises significantly and continues until the end of the year. There are high humidity and constant air movement.

The first plants called Phragmipedium topperi hort., a trade name for Phrag. richteri, came from the USA to Europe in 1985 lacking information on its origin. It was soon used for breeding. After thorough studies of the plant material, authors Jürgen Röth and Olaf Gruss soon realized that the taxon was a separate species. The description was based on a plant that Franz Glanz from Unterwössen, Bavaria, Germany, had in his possession for more than five years and had used several times in his breeding program. In the first description, they also considered the possibility that it could be a natural hybrid. At this time, there were discussions about newly discovered natural hybrids of this genus.

The species status of these plants is now widely recognized, although Lucille McCook continues to cast doubt on this in her 1998 publication in an Orchid Digest Special Publication.

In 1993, D. E. Bennett and E. A. Christenson reported in Icones Orchidacearum Peruvianum, Plate 153, a Phragmipedium from Peru that they surmised was a natural hybrid known as Phragmipedium pearcei hort. non (Rchb.f.) Rauh & Senghas. It grows on wet rocks in montane rain forests in the district La Banda de Shilcayo at elevations around 600 m (1,968 ft.). It had been collected in August of 1985 by J. Schunke (Schunke # 144191, USM). It is apparent that this plant is identical to Phragmipedium richteri. The plate shows a plant with obviously branched inflorescence, a trait that is quite rare in this genus. This fact did not persuade either the two authors or Lucille McCook to change their mind.

In the initial description of Phragmipedium richteri in the Journal Die Orchidee, a rather short diagnosis was published. A more detailed description of the features was remedied in the Italian Journal Caesiana Quaderno 7, 1996.

Analyses of plants in the USA, Germany, and Japan, which were in culture as Phrag. peruviana and Phrag. amazonica, showed clearly that these are also Phrag. richtreri. Plants from artificial propagation were analyzed, and they confirmed the homozygosity of the species.

It is interesting to note that the Botanical Garden in Linz, Austria, housed plants under the name Phragmipedium boissierianum var. minor for over 20 years. The plants came from a collection of Rauh and Sengthas, which are also Phragmipedium richteri. The collection trip seems to be the one those two researchers undertook in 1975 and reported in Die Orchidee 26, no. 1 (1975): 56-62.

Plants of the species were falsely named Phrag. ecuadorense and were used for breeding new hybrids. Such is also the case with many clones of Phrag. Ecua-Bess from the period before 1998, which in reality is a cross between Phrag. besseae and Phrag. richteri and thus is the hybrid Phrag. Franz Glanz....

Orchids from the Dracula Reserve in Ecuador
Lou Jost
3 pages, 8 photos

Dracula terborchii
©Lou Jost

The Dracula Reserve in northwest Ecuador has an exceptionally rich, highly endemic, but poorly known flora containing many surprises for biologists. Orchid expert Luis Baquero (Jardin Botanico de Quito, Universidad de Las Americas) has been exploring this region for many years, sponsored in part by the Quito Orchid Society, and he helped choose the location for the reserve.

Dracula terborchii was first discovered in an orchid collection in Europe, but its home was recently found in and around the Dracula Reserve. This Dracula is one reason we chose this area to protect.

The most diverse genus in the Reserve is Lepanthes. Here are two examples, Lepanthes meniscophora, and Lepanthes athena. Note the insect on the flower. Many (maybe all?) Lepanthes orchid species have evolved to mimic a female fungus gnat A male of the appropriate fly species tries to mate with the flower, pollinating it in the process of “pseudocopulation.” The image of Lepanthes nautica, side view, shows a white organ hanging under the column which imitates the genitalia of a female fungus gnat...