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The newly discovered Phragmipedium

NO.4@Phrag. kovachii 020620


Curator of Orchids, Missouri Botanical Garden, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens,
Mailing address: P.O. Box 566, Woodstock, VT 05091
Research Associate, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens,
811 South Palm Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236
Curador de Orchidaceae, Herbario San Marcos
Museo de Historia Natural, Apdo. 140434, Lima 14, Peru

ABSTRACT. A new species from Peru, Phragmipedium kovachii in section Micropetalum, is described and illustrated.

Key Words: Orchidaceae, Peru, Micropetalum, Phragmipedium kovachii

While biologists marvel at the biodiversity of the oceanÕs depths, etc., striking novelties within relatively accessible lands continue to appear, surprisingly even among the most cherished plants. Until 1981, about a dozen mostly drab species of Phragmipedium Rolfe were known. Then, Libby Besse and her companions surprised us with a red lady-slipper (P. besseae Dodson & Kuhn), a color we thought not possible among the slipper orchids, let alone Phragmipedium! How could flies or bees pollinate these flowers, the only [then] known pollinators of slipper orchids? Dalstršm and Hšijer observed visitation by a humming bird, perhaps the pollinator, opening the possibility of yet more surprising morphologies among species yet to be discovered. Then came the pure white miniature Mexipedium xerophyticum (Soto, Salazar & H‡gsater) V.A. Albert & M.W. Chase (Phragmipedium in the broad sense) from Mexico with flowers that seem more appropriate on an Angraecum Bory.

Recently, Michael Kovach discovered a new Phragmipedium with large purple flowers in northeastern Peru (FIGURES 1, 2, & 4).

Phrag. kocachii

The photo & fig, copyright @ Selby Gardens

Plant a caespitose terrestrial, apparently not forming elongate rhizomes.
Roots thick, to 4 mm in diameter.
Leaves 3 or more basal distichous, lacking articulations, blades ligulate, according to collector notes to 64 x 4 cm, but mostly much smaller, rather thick and coriaceous, keeled beneath, sharply acute.
ca. 23~25 cm tall, pubescent, purple, with a single green scape bract 7~9 cm long; ovary ca. 8 cm long, brown pubescent, subtended by an acute floral bract 4~5.5 cm long.
Flower single per scape on the present specimen (2 possible according to the collector) 11 cm across (to 15 cm according to verbal reports); sepals greenish flushed and lined with reddish purple, petals reddish purple within, reddish purple without and white centrally; lip reddish purple, lighter within, with yellow margins; staminode purple with white apex.
Sepals somewhat concave, densely golden-brown-pubescent without; dorsal 4.5 x 3 cm, broadly elliptic, obtuse; synsepal 5 x 3.7 cm, broadly elliptic to suborbicular, obtuse.
Petals 6 x 4.8 cm, broadly elliptic, with somewhat recurved margins;
labellum 5.5Š7.5 x 3.5Š4 cm, saccate with the apex turned up in front and the margin infolded, pubescent within at the base.
Staminode 1.3 x 2 cm, convex, triangular to rhombic, anthers nearly touching the stigmas; stigmas three, the median stigma particularly large, ca. 1 cm long. Mature fruit unknown.
Etymology. Named for Michael Kovach of Goldvein, Virginia, discoverer of this species.

Phragmipedium kovachii is a member of section Micropetalum Hallier and differs from all other species in the genus by the huge flowers that range in color from pinkish to dark purple and that are apparently borne singly in a non-successively flowered inflorescence. The suborbicular petals are proportionally wide, and the lip is inflated with an incurved apex.


The authors thank the collector for the color photographs and the technical data, and the staff at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens for their support.

continue to NO.3 ( Photos )

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