Paphiopedilum rothschildianum

Source: Dick Culbert

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum or Rothschild’s slipper orchid is a mythical orchid from Borneo.

It is threatened because it is even rare in its very limited natural habitat, deforestation and illegal picking for the black market where the plant costs up to 5,000 USD, earning it the reputation of being the most expensive orchid in the world. Plants from reputed growers are found at around 100 USD though.

The Rothschild slipper orchid appears in the Penny Dreadful series, in the Palm House of Kew Gardens.

Care is easy but growth is slow: it takes 15 years for the plant to start blooming.

It is widely used for the production of hybrids because of its beautiful flowers.

It belongs to the family Orchidaceae, sub-family Cypripedioideae, genus Paphiopedilum.

Description:

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum is a terrestrial, sometimes lythophytic orchid.

The leaves are bright green, up to 60 cm long and 4.5-7.5 cm wide.

The inflorescence is 45 cm long, reddish and carries 3-6 flowers. The petals are triangular at the top and bright yellow green with almost black longitudinal stripes. The dorsal sepal is about 6.5 cm tall and 3.5-4.5 cm wide, oval, pointed, yellowish with numerous very dark, almost black longitudinal stripes and white margins. The synsepalum is about 5.5 cm long. The spread, elongated petals are almost horizontal, 10-14 cm long and 1 cm wide, green yellow with dark spots around the base and dark stripes. The lip is bag-shaped, somewhat laterally compressed, protruding, 4.5-5.8 cm tall and 2.2 cm wide, cinnamon-colored with vermilion around the mouth. The staminode is particularly shaped and resembles the head and beak of a crane bird, with a long 2-toothed apex. It is hairy at the base and along the margins.

Size and flower color may vary. Smaller plants usually have more deep-colored, better-formed flowers.

Nomenclature:

Common name:

Gold of Kinabalu orchid, Rothshild’s slipper orchid, Sumazau orchid (after a traditional Sabah dance with outstretched arms)

Synonyms:

Cordula rothschildiana, Cypripedium elliottianum, Cypripedium neoguineense, Cypripedium rothschildianum, Paphiopedilum elliottianum, Paphiopedilum elliottianum, Paphiopedilum rothschildianum, Paphiopedilum rothschildianum var. elliottianum

Etymology:

Paphiopedilum: from the Greek paphia (attribute of Aphrodite) and pédilon (sandal)
Rothschildianum: in honor of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898)

Origin:

Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, northern Borneo

Habitat:

In leafy humus on hills of steep, northeastern cliffs and slopes, mostly near flowing water and in both high light and shady situations, 600-1,200 m altitude

Care:

Substrate:

Fine bark, clay pellets, sphagnum

Light:

Diffused light

Temperature:

Day: 20-25 °C
Night: 10-12 °C

Water:

Keep the substrate moist, avoid stagnant water

Hygrometry:

60-80 %

Feed:

4 x diluted orchid fertilizer when watering during the growing season but always skip a watering in winter.

Propagation:

By division. Be aware that if you divide mature plants, they will take 2-4 years before blooming again.

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