Flowering in a Swedish Orchidarium: Paphiopedilum fairrieanum

This one popped up on my phone on my commute to work this morning:  Paphiopedilum fairrieanum growing in the intermediate room of a Swedish orchidarium


As Karma suggests in her blog (see link above), this species has something rather "Victorian" about it - and evokes the orchid hunting era of the 1800s.

First cultivated in the late 1850s, when it was exhibited in Liverpool by Mr R. Fairrie, its origin remained a mystery for another 50 years- and it became so rare in culitvation that in 1904 Frederick Sander offered a £1,000 pound reward for its rediscovery (Cribb, 1998).

Phillip Cribb's monograph of the genus Paphiopedilum provides a fascinating account of the history and importance of this species to Victorian horticulture and plant hunting, and he recommends further reading in Arthur Swinson's biography of Sander: Frederick Sander, The Orchid King.


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Although we haven't seen this species in the wild, Paphiopedilum fairrieanum is one of the flagship orchids for the Writhlington School Orchid Project - our partners in Sikkim have been involved in setting up Sikkim's first single-species reserve for this orchid, at a place called Tinkitam in South Sikkim (near Ravangla) - the only known site where it occurs in Sikkim, on a near sheer cliff-face which we visited. It's also found in Bhutan and Assam. There's a bit of info here about it: http://www.orchidconservation.org/main/oci-endangered-list.html. We met one of Fairrie's descendents when we exhibited at Chelsea in 2009 and he was ever so pleased to hear about the conservation project going on around the species named for his great (-great?) grandfather!

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith