Friday, 26 December 2008

Paphiopedilum insigne

Paphiopedilum insigne (Wall. ex Lindl.) Pfitzer
Morph. Stud. Orchideenbl. 11. 1886.

Long known as Cypripedium insigne. The "Cypripediums" that Walter Oates describes as growing in the Fern Valley were most likely to have been this species. For over a hundred years it has been a popular subject for greenhouse culture in Sintra. Even today it is still possible to find one or two quintas with glasshouses full of them. This orchid is immensely popular on the island of Madeira, where they are known as "Sapatinhos" or "little slippers".
Introduced to cultivation in 1821 by Nathanial Wallich who sent plants to John Shepherd, curator of the Liverpool Botanic Garden. The garden, built by public subscription in 1801, enjoyed the patronage of many ship owners who charged their captains with the task of bringing back exotic plants for its collections.
Paphiopedilum insigne grows naturally in the Himalayas in Montane Monsoon areas (warm wet summers/ cool dry winters). Perhaps this is why, in our Atlantic climate, it is better suited to growing under cover.

Cypripedium insigne Wall. ex Lindl.
Gardener's Chronicle & Agricultural Gazette 2: 94. 1821.

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