Wild collected or artificially propagated?

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Abgeschickt von Michael Weinert am 15 Mai, 2007 um 13:18:54

Wild collected or artificially propagated - this is the main question when one buys flowering sized Cypripedium rhizomes. Nowadays, as many buyers are aware of the exploitation of wild Cypripedium populations, most dealers claim that their plants originate from artificial propagation. However I assume that still many species come mostly or exclusively from the wild. Much fewer rhizomes come from divisions of cultivated plants or from seedlings.

Here are some characteristics how to distinguish the different origins. However this is only my own opinion and one can never be completely sure.

First example: presumably wild collected


In my eyes this rhizome shows many characteristics of a wild collected plant. The roots are short without root tips (ripped off during digging), heavily stressed (brown colouration) or dead (black colour). Several roots only show the central cylinder at the tip, the root tissue has decayed. The fourth photo shows a dried-out root tip, due to bad treatment during "harvest", storage and shipment. The rhizome is long and more or less even in diameter, indicating that this plant has been adult since several years. 

A rhizome in this state mostly does not survive the first year in culture. If it does, the next shoot will be very small and it takes several years until the plants reaches flowering size again - if it does not collapse in the meantime which is quite likely even for the advanced grower. The immuno system of such plants remains weak for years and so pathogens in the roots and the rhizome have many chances to kill the plant. In the same time and for the same money an average grower would be able to raise several seedlings to maturity which resulted in much more stable and more than one flowering plants. Furthermore the nomenclature of wild collected plants can often be wrong as the rhizomes of different species are hard to distinguish and some species grow close together. For details about the trade with wild collected Cypripediums please see Holger Perner's article here on the forum.

Second example: perhaps a division from a cultivated clump


This plant has longer roots of mostly light colouration which is a good sign. However most root tips are dead (black colour), only a few intact (last photo). The rhizome again is very long which speaks for an adult plant since years. What may speak against cultivation are the roots of trees or shrubs between the root system of the Cypripedium (see the thin black roots in the red circle of the second photo), but this is only my personal assumption. However, a rhizome in this state is likely to survive and to grow on without too many problems.

Third example: grown from seed


This is how seed-raised plants look like. They have an completely intact root system (light colouration, mostly intact root tips) and a short rhizome without signs of a cut. The reason for the short and thin rhizome is that such plants are only a few years old and the rhizome is still increasing in diameter from year to year. On the second photo you can see the remnant of last year's shoot. The fourth photo (Cyp. 'Victoria') shows how long an intact root system normally is. It even can become longer in time. Especially Cyp. reginae is famous for its very long roots. Seed-raised plants flower for the first time approximately in their third to sixth year in soil. They are a guarantee for long-lasting enjoyment. It turned out that seed-raised plants, even of very sensitive species like montanum and cordigerum, are much more stable in culture than plants from the wild. So I would say that seedlings  are the only realistic way to establish all Cypripedium species in culture over the time. Taking into account the severe set-back which nearly all wild collected specimens suffer, seedlings are not slower until flowering than wild collected rhizomes. Some sources for seed-raised plants can be found in my list here on the forum.

Again, I would like to stress the point that by far not all plants on the market which are sold as "artificially propagated" really originate from divisions or from seed. With the help of my pictures you should be able to decide yourself whether you have been told the truth or not. Don't accept bad quality. If you want to be completely safe, buy seedlings or artificial hybrids.


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