Friday, July 13, 2018

Sander's dream

Initially discovered in 1885 in Sarawak, this bizarre slipper orchid was thought to be extinct until it was rediscoverd in 1978. It was so rare and so sought-after that it became the plant poster-child of the ill-concieved Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES for short).

Instead of smothering the collection of plants in the wild, CITES actually increase the black market value of many slipper orchid species, most of which were rather drab and unexciting anyway but became interesting to collectors of the rare and contraband. There were also unofficial accounts that during the development of an air-strip in Mulu area, the habitat of limestone Paphiopedilums, including this species, was destroyed but no one took effort to salvage the plants for fear of infringing CITES regulations. Nowadays, it was reported to be only found only within the Mulu National Park, I am not sure if that is true now but its distribution used to be wider. 

The vegetative appearance of this plant is typical of many slipper orchids - fan-shaped array of stiff green leaves. Once the flowers emerges however, one will be intrigued by its extremely long pair of twisting petals and the gaudy stripped erect dorsal sepal. Many hybrids had been made of this but none match the flavours and the length of petals of the original.

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