Paphiopedilum is a genus in the orchid family (Orchidaceae) of approximately 77 species native to South China, India, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. The genus has been given its own subtribe, the Paphiopedilinae.
The genus name Paphiopedilum is derived from the Greek Paphos, a city on the island of Cyprus, and pedilon, slipper. Most species in this genus were previously considered part of the genus Cypripedium, but Paphiopedilum was accepted as the conserved (valid in use) name in 1959.
Paphiopedilum (sometimes colloquially referred to as "Paphs") are considered highly collectible by growers due to the curious and unusual form of their flowers. Most naturally occur among humus layers as terrestrials on the forest floor, while a few are true epiphytes and some are lithophytes.
Along with Phragmipedium, Cypripedium, Mexipedium, and Selenipedium, the genus is a member of the subfamily Cypripedioideae, commonly referred to as the Lady’s or Venus’ Slipper Orchids, so named from the unusual shape of the pouch (labellum) of the flower, which was said to resemble a lady’s slipper. The pouch functions by trapping insects so that they are forced to climb up past the staminode, behind which they collect or deposit pollinia.
These sympodial orchids lack pseudobulbs. Instead they grow robust shoots, each with several leaves. These can be short and rounded or long and narrow, and typically have a mottled pattern. When older shoots die, newer ones take over. Each new shoot only blooms once when it is fully grown, producing a raceme between the fleshy, succulent leaves. The roots are thick and fleshy. Potted plants form a tight lump of roots that, when untangled, can be up to l m long.
The Chinese orchid Paphiopedilum armeniacum, discovered in 1979 and described in 1982, amazed growers of orchids by the extraordinary beauty of its golden flowers.
The Paphiopedilums are among the most widely cultivated and hybridized of orchid genera. Thousands of interspecific hybrids have been registered with the Royal Horticultural Society in London over the years. These orchids are relatively easy to grow indoors, as long as conditions that mimic their natural habitats are created. Most species thrive in moderate to high humidity (50 to 70 percent), moderate temperatures ranging from 13 to 35 degrees Celsius and low light of 12,000 to 20,000 lux. Modern hybrids are typically easier to grow in artificial conditions than their parent species.
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