Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lady's Slipper Orchids from Near and Far

One of my most prized orchids has bloomed again. The last time Paphiopedilum "Magic McNavy" bloomed was November, 2005. The bloom usually lasts over a month and is very unique, so it is worth the wait. The flowers have a very waxy/greasy appearance, lots of dark hairs, and strange bumps. The description sounds more like an unattractive teenager than a flower somehow. The plant has lots of new growth on it, so maybe the next bloom will have two flower stems.

This particular orchid is described as a slipper orchid because of the tubular shape of the lower lip of the flower. The genus name is derived from Paphos (=a city on Cyprus where a temple to Venus stands) and pedilum (=slipper/sandal). Thus, it essentially means Venus' slipper. It hails from the tropics of the Old World (though I bought it on ebay from a guy in BC!).
Shockingly, we also have lady's slipper orchids growing wild in our back yard! The local pink lady's slipper orchids are of the related genus Cypripedium, species aucale. The picture above was taken in June, 2006. Would you believe the local orchid's Latin name also means Venus' slipper? (Cypris=refers to Venus because Cyprus was Venus' sacred island, pedium=slipper/sandal). Cypripedium was actually named first, by Carl Linnaeus. The Paphiopedilum was named a century later by Heinrich, who essentially copied the idea of naming the flower for a beautiful goddess' footwear.

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