I have been reading up a storm – learning as much as possible about the genera that holds my every waking hour captive – that of course being Cypripedium!
I currently grow Cypripedium reginae, and have lost track of the number of times I have found myself swooning on hands and knees over her beauty! She and the camera are as one as they would say!
This past October I decided that I would take the leap, or is it plunge, and increase my collection with the purchase of Cypripedium formosanum. As I type it is over wintering in my basement [cold but not freezing] with high anticipation that it will respond favourably next Spring….. in other words, knock my socks off! Judging from the photos, it would not be a difficult feat. My wonderful enabler, Richard, from Fraser’s Thimble Farms, is only too generous to feed my addiction, whatever the plant, whatever the time of year!
With so many different species and hybrids available, how could I possibly narrow it down to just one? One word….. foliage! Considered by many to be the most beautiful of all the species within the genus, it was first discovered at Oiwake in the mountains of Taiwan. and described in 1916 by Japanese botanist B. Hayata. It is endemic to the island where it is found growing in the mountains between 2000-3000m. It is closely related to Cypripedium japonicum, and has been considered by many authorities to be a variety of that species, however it differs in having a glabrous stem, sparsely pubescent or glabrous peduncle, and a flower with several distinctive features. The author of the monograph, Phillip Cribb believes that it represents its own species.
Description: A terrestrial herb with erect glabrous flowering stems arising from a creeping, branching rhizome, bearing remote scales and clustered roots at intervals along its length. [I was amazed at this feature when I carefully unpackaged it and transplanted it!] Stems, 10-25 cm in length. enclosed below by five to eight imbricate obtuse sheaths, two leaved at the apex. Leaves plicate, spreading flabellate, obtuse, rounded or apiculate at the apex, 10-13 cm in length, 7-11 cm in width, are ciliate on the entire to erose margin, with 11-13 radiating veins. [In layman terminology, they look like a pleated Elizabethan fan! Simply smashing!] Inflorescence one flowered, erect, peduncle 10-11cm in length, sparsely pubescent; bract ovate-lanceolate, acute, sparsely pubescent. Flower nutant, white to pink with crimson spots at the base of the petals and larger spots on the lip especially within, the staminodes purple-red with a white tip; pedicel and ovary 1.8-2.3cm long, densely shortly tomentose. Dorsal sepal curving forwards, ovate-elliptic to narrowly elliptic, acute or acuminate, 4.5cm long, 2-2.5cm in width, pilose towards the base, ciliate;synsepal elliptic; naviculiform; acuminate and bidentate at the apex, 4.5-5.2 cm long, 2.5-3cm wide, pilose towards the base. Petals spreading deflexed, flat, oblong-oblanceolate, acute or acuminate 4.8-5.3cm long, 1.5-1.8 wide, pilose towards the base. Lip calceiform, ovoid to ellipsoidal in shape, with a narrowly pandurate mouth, often shortly apiculate at apex; 5.5-6.5cm long, 4cm wide, the margin incurved, the veins sunken especially towards the apex, barbate-pubescent within. [Translation: One stunningly beautiful plant if I do say so myself!]
Cultivation: As mentioned earlier, while some consider it to be variety of the species C. japonicum, the good news is that it is much easier to cultivate! In its native Taiwan it occurs in the mountainous north of the island, growing near seepages on schists, in light shade and in the open. In cultivation it can also be grown in calcareous soils; however, it will grow most vigorously in a heavier substrate with frequent watering. The perfect medium for growing is one consisting of 60-80 percent loam pellets and pumice gravel, with a pH of 7, with an extra drainage layer at the base of the pot. When growing well, Cypripedium formosanum needs to be heavily fertilized; lack of nutrients being indicated by a premature yellowing of leaf margins. Healthy growth also depends on a regular supply of water, but standing water in the compost will cause instant rot. In the glasshouse the plant will remain green until November, and start into growth in February or March, It is hardy in Central Europe and New York State, but needs protection from warm spells to ensure an undisturbed dormancy.
It seems like a lot to remember, but I must remember that it is also supposedly one of the easiest within the genus to grow! I think I can, I think I can! Does anyone else grow this plant? Do you have any information or tips to assist me on my way? Any and all would be greatly appreciated!