Paphiopedilum armeniacum (golden slipper orchid)
The endangered golden slipper orchid is highly prized as an ornamental.
About this species
Paphiopedilum armeniacum was described as recently as 1982, and many have wondered how such a striking species could have remained undiscovered for so long. It was given the name 'armeniacum' in reference to the apricot-coloured flowers of the first officially described specimen (a collection by A.L. Zhang from Bijiang in Yunnan). In contrast to this original observation, almost all subsequent specimens found have had sulphur-yellow flowers; hence the common name - golden slipper orchid - is perhaps more appropriate.
Geography & Distribution
Paphiopedilum armeniacum is found from China (west Yunnan province) to northern Myanmar. It occurs at 1,600 to 2,000 metres above sea level.
It is found growing on limestone hills, in semi-shaded deciduous forest, usually on cliffs above rivers.
Paphiopedilum armeniacum (Image: Wikimedia)
Paphiopedilum armeniacum has elongated rhizomes (horizontal underground stem), which grow up to 25 cm long, usually spreading through leaf litter or around rocks and forming large clumps. Plantlets occur up to 15 cm apart and each bears 5 to 7 leaves. The upper surface of the leaves is greenish-white with a dark green marbled pattern. The lower leaf surface is heavily spotted with irregular dark purple-red patches, and the edges of the leaves are finely serrated.
This species flowers from late autumn to early spring. The large, sulphur-yellow flowers are borne singly on a peduncle (flower stalk) that can be up to 60 cm long. The peduncle is green with purple spots, and with brown hairs covering the surface. The flowers can be up to 10.5 cm in diameter and are spotted purple-crimson inside the lip, which is in the form of a large, rounded pouch.
Threats & Conservation
This species is rated by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as Endangered, and has in the past been collected from the wild in large numbers. Its limited geographical range, and popularity in cultivation, mean it is vulnerable to over-collection.
Like all species of Paphiopedilum, it is listed on CITES Appendix I, meaning that trade in wild collected plants is prohibited.
The large yellow flowers and attractive marbled leaves make Paphiopedilum armeniacum a highly sought-after ornamental plant. Commercial orchid growers have produced several inter-specific and inter-generic hybrids using this species.
Paphiopedilum armeniacum is relatively easy to cultivate, but needs a dryish winter period (misted only), alongside increased light intensity, to encourage flowering. It thrives in strong, diffused light and cool, moist air at 60 to 80% relative humidity. Plants should be kept moist whilst actively growing. The use of fertiliser should be reduced, or halted, during the rest period. This species produces new shoots at the end of a long rhizome, which should be borne in mind when potting up plants.
This species at Kew
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