Paphiopedilum malipoense is a slipper orchid from southern China (Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou) and northern Vietnam that somehow managed to escape the notice of orchid collectors and botanists until the 1980s–the species was described in 1984. It isn’t the most exquisitely beautiful slipper orchid, but the green flowers with maroon spotting and tessellation have a certain bizarre charm. The dark spots on the inside of the inflated pouch show through the thin tissue, making the pouch appear mottled. Most Paphiopedilum flowers are scentless, but those of P. malipoense have a pleasant raspberry fragrance, a characteristic that seems to be passed on to its first-generation hybrids.
I haven’t been growing P. malipoense for very long, but I have had its primary hybrid, Paphiopedilum Lynleigh Koopowitz (P. malipoense x delenatii) for about fifteen years. P. Lynleigh Koopowitz grows and blooms well in my greenhouse, as does its other parent, P. delenatii, so I have some hope that P. malipoense will prove equally reliable.
P. Lynleigh Koopowitz combines the best characteristics of both parents. From P. malipoense, it inherits raspberry fragrance and fine markings on its petals, but P. delenatii genes convert the green/maroon color combination to white/purple. Some P. delenatii specimens are also fragrant, though to my nose they smell quite different from P. malipoense and P. Lynleigh Koopowitz.
The history of P. delenatii in cultivation is a fascinating story. A few plants were collected in Vietnam during the early 1900s, but the species was believed extinct in the wild soon after it was described in 1924. For the next seventy years, all of the known P. delenatii were descended from a single plant grown at a nursery in France. Not surprisingly, genetic diversity was almost nonexistent among the cultivated plants, and they all looked virtually identical. Then, in the 1990s, the species was rediscovered in southern Vietnam, and large numbers of plants were collected (mostly illegally). Cultivated P. delenatii now includes white (alba) and very dark (vinicolor) specimens. My plant, shown above, is typical of the old cultivated type.
P. delenatii is now listed as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. One might hope that artificial propagation has reduced collection pressure on the wild population, but somehow I have my doubts.
Even in the dead of winter, a North Carolina garden isn’t completely dormant. Birds are busy visiting the feeders during the day, and at night we can hear the barred owls calling to each other. The local coyotes have also been noisy lately, and a couple of nights ago eldest offspring heard a harsh screaming that didn’t sound like a fox. We are reasonably sure that it was a bobcat. Among the flower beds, Camellia x vernalis ‘Yuletide’ is still blooming, and the buds of Edgeworthia chrysantha are swelling. The green foliage of winter growing bulbs like Lycoris radiata and Scilla peruviana add a little color to otherwise barren mulch, and today, the first Narcissus of the year is blooming.
Narcissus cantabricus is a miniature “hoop petticoat” narcissus native to southern Spain, Morocco, and Algeria. As with most bulbs purchased from big bulb vendors, I can’t be certain that this plant doesn’t have some hybrid genes, but it generally matches the description of the species and blooms very early as expected. The plant is tiny–certainly not a spectacular specimen that draws the eye across the garden–but it is a promise of good things to come. The garden should have various Narcissus species and hybrids blooming most weeks from now until the last Narcissus poeticus fades in late April or early May.
Night in the tropics brings out a host of interesting animals that are rarely, if ever, seen during the day. Hoping to see some of this nocturnal wildlife, I took a headlamp with me on our recent trip to Costa Rica and went out late at night to wander around an area of old secondary forest on the grounds of our resort. With other family members, I also participated in two organized night walks, one at the resort, and a second offered by Manuel’s tours on a wooded lot near Quepos.
To celebrate my parents’ golden wedding anniversary, the entire family (my parents, my sister, our spouses and children) all went to Costa Rica for a few days between Christmas and New Year. It was my first trip to that beautiful country, and I was totally blown away by…well, everything: the friendly people, the great food, the beautiful scenery, the tropical flora, and the amazing wildlife.
We stayed at Arenas del Mar, a small resort in the lowland rain forest between Manuel Antonio National Park and the Pacific coast town of Quepos. Several people told me that the dry season came early this year, so I didn’t see many orchids in bloom (sad face). However, the wildlife exceeded all my expectations. I expected sloths and frogs, but not crocodiles…
After flying into San José, we rode down to Manuel Antonio (about 170 kilometers) in a van provided by Arenas del Mar. Just before we reached the Pacific coast, our driver stopped beside a bridge over the Tárcoles River so that we could stretch our legs and ogle the monsters on the banks of the river below. Somehow they seemed much more menacing than American alligators, and I was glad that we were viewing them from the bridge.
Arriving at the resort after dark, we got our first real look at the area the next morning, when we took a guided tour of Villa Vanilla, a spice plantation located a few kilometers inland from Quepos. At Villa Vanilla, they grow vanilla (of course), cacao, true cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), black pepper, allspice, and turmeric. The tour was fascinating and delicious–we tasted the spices in their raw forms and incorporated into various treats–and the location of the plantation in the foothills is unutterably beautiful.
The Vanilla orchid is a heavy epiphytic vine which requires support. Although some of the plants were growing on rough posts, many were trained onto shrubby trees whose flowers added to the beauty of the plantation.
The paths were also lined with Heliconia plants, ornamental gingers, and wooden frames supporting native epiphytes.
While wandering the grounds of Villa Vanilla, we saw our first toucan…
…and a troop of squirrel monkeys
We also saw squirrel monkeys on the grounds of the resort and at Manuel Antonio National Park, which we visited the next day. If you plan to visit Manuel Antonio, you will probably see recommendations to hire a guide. I concur. If we had wandered around by ourselves, we certainly would have seen monkeys and perhaps a few sloths, but we would have missed many of the smaller animals. Our guide (from Manuel’s Tours) was enthusiastic and knowledgeable–he was happy to discuss taxonomy of sloths or cannibalistic behavior of basilisks–and he carried a large spotting scope with excellent depth of field which served equally well to enlarge a howler monkey fifty feet up a tree or a tiny bat tucked into a Heliconia just off the path.
After a day or two, we got better at spotting animals, and it became clear that many of the species in the national park also lived on the grounds of our resort. Here’s a small sampling of what I saw and photographed:
Perhaps the most unexpected and exciting wildlife sighting occurred while we were eating lunch at the beach on our third day. A clutch of olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) emerged from the sand and began to make their way down to the sea. It was something I never expected to see outside of books and television programs.
After four days in paradise, we piled back into the van for the drive back to San José, but Costa Rica had one more treat in store. When we stopped again near the Tárcoles River, I finally got a photograph of a wild scarlet macaw.