Taiwanese Cypripediums

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Abgeschickt von Lukas Hunziker am 24 November, 2007 um 08:52:06

Hello all,

Today I want to tell you something about the Taiwanese slipper orchids. In Taiwan occur 4 species of the genus Cypripedium. These are Cypripedium debile, Cyp. formosanum, Cyp. macranthos var. taiwanianum and Cyp. segawai. Taiwan is as far south as southern Yunnan, Bangladesh or Havanna. Therefor the Cypripediums are found in high altitudes. The island covers only 35000 km², but has 24 million inhabitants. Therefor natural areas where Cypripediums can grow are rare. Luckily the mountains of Taiwan are not threatened by agricultural expansion. The Cypripediums of Taiwan occur mostly in the Taroko and Shei-pa national parks with the peaks of Nanhudashan, Hehuanshan and Syue Shan which all are around 3400 – 3900m high, in the north east part of the island. Cypripedium formosanum and debile grow on the Alishan in the central of Taiwan too.

Most of the information is from a Taiwanese orchid book written in Chinese from 2006.

Cypripedium formosanum

This showy orchid is growing at altitudes between 2200 and 3000m above sea level. But the elevations where it is still growing are in between of 1500m and 2500m. According to my knowledge, there are only six remaining locations in the restricted mountains of Taiwan. 5 of 6 locations are between 2100 and 2500m above sea level. It grows between small shrubes or bamboo. On one picture I found, it was growing in very stony ground without any other vegetation. But I think this is because of a small landslide which went just above the Cyp location.

Cyp. formosanum is quiet easy to grow and multiplies very fast. Therefore it is frequently seen in cultivation despite its rareness in nature. I found severel pictures of Cypripedium formosanum in situ on the internet. This one is the best from an orchid forum: http://89sky.homeip.net/89sky/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=785&forum=7

Cypripedium segawai

This small jewel is the rarest Cypripedium of Taiwan. It grows at altitudes between 1500 and 2500m above sea level. But this species is only representated by two known locations! Also on the internet it is hard to find any informations about this dwarf Cypripedium. It is growing in open montane forests between Juniperus shrubs. In collections it is also quiet rare. 

This picture of the Cypripedium segawai in its natural habitat is from the same Orchid forum as the formosanum picture:

Cypripedium macranthos var. taiwanianum

This island population of Cypripedium macranthos is the southern limit of the species. Therefore it is an alpine plant of the high mountains in this more subtropic area. This variety is somehow comparable with Cypripedium tibeticum because of its southern high alpine habitat. Both orchids have a stocky habit and a slightly closed flower.

This species grows in alpine meadows on alpine meadows or even in cracks between 2500 and 3600m above sea level. But it is to say, that 3 out of 4 known populations grow around 3400m above sea level very close to the peaks of the mountains. This species is the most common Cypripedium in Taiwan, so it is frequently seen and photographed by alpinists. It is not like the other species which grow in remote areas of the island. These lady slippers grow on frequently visited mountains of Taiwan, like the Nanhudashan or close to the peak of the Hehuanshan. In cultivation is this species very uncommon. Because of its high altitude habitat it is on the one hand hardy but on the other hand it has problems with wet winters. But I don’t know why this species is so rare in cultivation.

This picture is from this website: http://photo.xuite.net/huckle1025/1854085/106.jpg#support_xuite
When you visit this website, you can see severel more very good pictures of Cypripedium macranthos var. taiwanianum. There is in addition an albino type of this variety, too.

Cypripedium debile

The last slipper orchid which occurs in Taiwan is Cypripedium debile. This orchid occurs in Taiwan between 2500 and 3000m above sea level and is represented by 6 known populations. Besides Cypripedium formosanum this species is the only one which is not restricted to the Taroko area. There is also a location at the famous Alishan. They are growing in montane forests in shady, mossy places under trees with a high humidity. Because of its small appearance, it is not that frequently seen and reported. I couldn’t find any good picture of its habitat in Taiwan. There are severel pictures which show the plant or conservation trials with an artificially pollinated population.

In conclusion I can say, that this small and beautiful island is worth to see. I hadn’t the chance up to now to go. But I am going in the near future. Hopefully in the spring, when the Cypripedium are in full flower!

All the best



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