Phragmipedium kovachii Atwood, Dalstrom & Fernandez
- Described: Atwood, Dalstrom & Fernandez in Selbyana, 23(Supplement): 1-4 (2002)
- Etymology: From Atwood, Dalstrom & Fernandez (2002): "Named for Michael Kovach of Goldvein, Virginia, discoverer of this species."
- History: Phrag. kovachii was discovered by Faustino Medina Bautista in October, 2001 on or near
his farm near Moyobamba and Chachapoyas in northern Peru. The first illegal appearance of Phrag. kovachii (that I can document) was at the May 17-19, 2002 Redland International Orchid Show in Miami, Florida. An unspecified Peruvian nursery owner is rumored to have been offering it for sale at $10,000 per plant. A little while later on May 26, 2002 Virginian J.M. Kovach purchased 3 plants from Bautista at
her roadside orchid kiosk. He brought one plant back to the United States which he took to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota Florida on June 5, 2002. A formal description was immediately written by two staff members of Selby's Orchid Identification Center, J.T. Atwood & S. Dalstron, and one Peruvian reviewer, R. Fernandez. It was issued on June 12, 2002 as a supplement to Selbyana, the Gardens' scientific publication. This beat the publication by Eric Christenson in Orchids, which was published June 17, 2002, by five days. The tale of the upheaval that followed Selby's description of an obviously illegally-imported plant is well-covered in "The Case of the Purloined Orchid," by C. Pittman (2005).
- Varieties & Forms: none confirmed, although there have been rumors of an albino or near-albino clone and I have seen photos of the buds; I have yet to see a photo of a bloom
Phragmipedium peruvianum Christenson in Orchids, 71(7): 620-622 (2002)
- Chromosome Count - unknown
- Leaves: up to 55 cm long, 5 cm wide, hard, leathery, with occasional basal purple-red coloration
- Inflorescence: 1-3 flowered, blooms sequential, 20-40 cm long
- Bloom: 15-23 cm wide, after opening it grows and lightens in color, ovary 8-9 mm wide, 8-11 cm long
- Plant: short rhizomes, can reach 15-20 fans in the wild
- Distribution - near Moyobamba and Tarapoto, Peru
- Elevation: 1900-2100 m.
- Peak Flowering in the Wild: October-March [probably]
- Ecology: steep limestone cliff faces lacking blanketing vegetation
- Mean Temperature Range: 16-17°C
- Light: partial sun, from Koopowitz (2003): "The cliff was unshaded by trees and thus the plants were growing in exposed sunlight."
- Medium: calcareous, pH 6.97, on moss over brown, gravelly soil, roots within a few cm of the soil surface
- Water: constant moisture, from Koopowitz (2003): "This was not the rainy season. It had only rained twice this day."
- Currently, there are only 15 legally collected plants of Phrag. kovachii in cultivation in three Peruvian nurseries. These three nurseries were given permission by the Peruvian government to collect 5 plants apiece for use in artificial propagation. However, thousands of plants have undoubtedly been illegally collected and exported all over the world, especially to the United States and Europe.
- The first legal plants were collected by Alfredo Manrique, owner of Centro de Jardineria Manrique. Centro de Jardineria Manrique partnered with Piping Rock Orchids of Galway, New York, Tropical Propagations of Madison, Wisconsin, and Green Canyon Orchids of Canada to breed species and hybrid seedlings from these plants. Piping Rock Orchids will oversee worldwide distribution (except for Canada, for which Green Canyon Orchids is responsible.). The first species and hybrid flasks and hybrid seedlings were offered for sale at orchid shows in Spring 2006. The first widespread advertisement by Piping Rock of species and hybrid seedlings appeared in the August 2006 Orchids magazine.
- The second group of plants was collected for propagation by Peruflora. The flasks resulting from the breeding of these plants were first made available for sale at the 2005 World Orchid Conference in Dijon, France. Flasks have since been offered for sale all over the world. However, anyone who purchased flasks from Peruflora was required to sign a contract promising not to sell, trade or donate any seedlings until February 15, 2007. This contract was issued by the nursery, Peruflora, and was in no way connected with INRENA, the branch of the Peruvian government concerned with overseeing the legal propagation of Phrag. kovachii. The rationale for the contract was given as an attempt to, "help us tracking legal seedlings but will also accompany us in preserving Phragmipedium kovachii and other Peruvian Orchid species for future generations." However, in my and many others' opinion, the contract has nothing to do with conservation, but rather is a way for Peruflora to maintain a monopoly on flask and seedling sales for as long as possible.
- The third group of plants was collected by Vivero Nuevo Destino, the nursery of Lee & Chady Moore. Unfortunately, I have no reliable information concerning their propagation efforts.
- The first US nursery to offer Phrag. kovachii seedlings from Peruflora for sale was Orchids Limited of Plymouth, Minnesota. They were offered as "futures," to be delivered in April 2007. Prices for individual plants were $225-$500 (including overnight shipping), depending on the seedling size at the time of delivery. A 50% non-refundable deposit was required to reserve a seedling and if the company could not fulfill the order, the deposit was issued as store-credit rather than a refund. In response to criticism posted on the Slipper Orchid Forum, Jerry Lee Fischer states that, "Now as to costs. I am charging a price which includes overnight shipping. $225.00 is not a great deal of money when you consider that I have already spent well over $11,000.00 for 8 flasks (this includes transporation and trip costs). I also spent 4 days of travel time plus another 4 days getting the whole trip arranged. I am presently paid anywhere between $175.00 to $350.00 per hour when I do consulting work for hobbyists or commercial nurseries. This work supplements our income so my time is worth something as well. I am also spending 2 years of effort and care to grow these plants to the best of my ability. Next time you go out to a fancy restaurant and spend $200.00 on a meal what do you have the next day? Surely an interesting orchid plant is worth more than that." The total retail price of the futures being offered by Orchids limited was $75,000.
- The second US nursery to offer Phrag. kovachii seedlings from Peruflora to be delivered in early 2007 was Flasks by Chuck Acker. These seedlings were offered in batches of 5 for
a price of $100 per seedling. A 50% deposit was required at the time of purchase, but would be refunded if the company could not fulfill the order.
- Atwood, J.T., S. Dalstrom, and R. Fernandez. "Phragmipedium kovachii, A New Species from Peru." Selbyana 23, Supplement (June 12 2002): 1-4.
- Christenson, E. "Phragmipedium peruvianum, The Most Glorious New Phragmipedium Species in Two Decades is Described." Orchids 71, no. 7 (Jul 2002): 620-22.
- Croezen, P. Green Canyon Orchids website. Accessed 7/06 <http://home.golden.net/~orchids/>
- Fischer, J.L. Slipper Orchid Forum - comments in the kovachii futures thread (2005-06) <http://www.slipperorchidforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=3406>
- Koopowitz, H. "Phragmipedium kovachii in the Wild." Orchid Digest 67, no. 4 (Oct/Dec 2003): 248-55.
- Loayza, M.D., N.H. Williams, and W.M. Whitten. "Phragmipedium kovachii, Molecular Systematics of a New World Orchid." Orchids 74, no. 2 (Feb 2005): 132-37.
- Pittman, C. "The Case of the Purloined Orchid." Sarasota Magazine, Mar 2005.
- Salventi, J. "An Elusive Beauty, Searching for Phragmipedium kovachii in Peru." Orchids 74, no. 4 (Apr 2005): 288-91.
Primary Hybrids - none registered
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Page Created By: Stephen Manza
Last Updated: 2-9-06