CALCICOLOUS SLIPPER ORCHIDS - TALK PREPARED BY TONY BUDROVICH. Paphiopedilum Study Group of Western Australia Meeting 10 April 2016

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1 CALCICOLOUS SLIPPER ORCHIDS - TALK PREPARED BY TONY BUDROVICH Paphiopedilum Study Group of Western Australia Meeting 10 April 2016 INTRODUCTION The purpose of this article is to identify the calcicolous slipper orchids i.e. those that thrive in a medium rich in lime. I will discuss three genera of slipper orchids which grow well in our Perth climate, specifically Paphiopedilums, Phragmipediums and Mexipedium. Many orchid growers advocate the use of topdressing their plant pots once or twice a year with dolomite powder and I will look at what benefit this may have in relation to the potting mediums we typically use and also reference the native habitat of various species. However, as Ken Jones pointed out to me recently, the remaining native habitats of species Paphiopedilums are generally those which are most inaccessible given the amount of collection of wild plants that has occurred. Therefore it is possible that some species which have not been well protected may have existed in other habitats. Remaining species in the wild may be growing on limestone cliffs whereas prior to collection they may also have been growing in humus and leaf litter over limestone in more accessible locations. I have found the article "Supplementing Calcicolous Paphs" by Bob and Lyn Wellenstein of AnTec Laboratory (now closed) to be an excellent resource and provide it as a reference for your reading. A summary of the findings of the Wellensteins is as follows: 1. Many species Paphiopedilums grow in close proximity to calcareous rock, however an almost equal number do not. 2. The degree to which a Paphiopedilum is calcicolous depends on its relationship with the limestone substrate in its growing habitat e.g. some have roots in direct contact. 3. Strongly calcicolous species can benefit from dolomitic limestone supplementation depending on the quality of your water and fertiliser e.g. not high ph hard water (high in dissolved salts). 4. The nature of the potting medium has an impact on ph e.g. pine bark tends to be acidic as it breaks down. 5. Ideally use pure water with balanced fertiliser with 40 ppm calcium and ppm magnesium with a ph of 6.2 to 6.6 for all Paphiopedilums. PAPHIOPEDILUM A summary of the known general habitats of the various Paphiopedilum species sections is as follows: Parvisepalum section species such as Paph. micranthum and Paph. malipoense can be found in monsoon or evergreen forests on the northerly facing slopes of limestone hills. They grow on rocky outcrops or in thin soil and leaf litter deposited over the rocky substrate. They prefer a more alkaline medium with a ph in the range of 6.0 to 7.5. The only exception is Paph. delenatii which grows on granite cliffs and prefers an acidic medium.

2 I have added Paph. vietnamense and Paph. hangianum to the schedule prepared by Bob Lowenstein in the table below: substrate ph hangianum Yes Limestone rocks in No data. pockets of humus covered in moss. Dry, open evergreen forests on limestone hills and mountains. vietnamense Yes Lithophyte on mossy weathered limestone. No data. Wet closed forests on highly eroded crystalline limestone mountains. Paph. hangianum Photo Tony Budrovich Paph. vietnamense Orchidwiz Photo Stephen Manza Some excellent photos of Paphipedilum orchids in situ have been taken by Chu Xuan Cahn of Hanoi, Vietnam. Unfortunately, I was unable to get permission to use his photos in time for this article. However, if you go to his Facebook page you will see examples of Paph. micranthum and Paph. henryanum and others thriving on weathered limestone cliff faces. This begs the question of "why can't most of us grow them well in a pot in controlled conditions". Brachypetalum section species such as Paph. bellatulum and Paph. niveum are lithophytic or terrestrial calcicole plants found growing in soil and leaf litter in the hollows or cracks of eroded limestone with a soil ph of alkaline to neutral of around 7.3 to 8.3.

3 Coryopetalum section species such as Paph. sanderianum and Paph. rothschildianum are mostly lithophytic calcicole plants growing on cliffs or in the shade of trees with the exception of Paph. wilhelminae which grows in calcerous clay on steep banks with local grasses. Also, Paph. rothschildianum and Paph. ooii grow on igneous rock and not limestone in their native habitat. I have added Paph. ooii, Paph. intaniae, Paph. platyphyllum and Paph. gigantifolium to the schedule prepared by Bob Lowenstein in the table below: substrate ph gigantifolium Yes Terrestrial which No data. grows in shaded conditions in shallow humus on steep ravines with heavy shade. intaniae Yes Terrestrial on No data. limestone cliffs and hills. ooii No Ledges on No data. northeast facing serpentine cliffs above running water. platyphyllum Yes Terrestrial on No data. moss-covered rocks with its roots embedded in leafy humus in cracks and crevices. Terrestrial lithophytic growing on steep limestone cliffs above the ravines. Limestone cliffs and hills. Igneous rock cliffs. Similar habitat to Paph. rothschildianum Steep serpentine limestone cliffs. Paph. gigantifolium Photo Orchids Wiki KG Lam Paph.victoria regina var kalinae Photo Photo Tony Budrovich

4 Pardalopetalum section species such as Paph. haynaldianum, Paph. lowii and Paph. parishii are either epiphytic, lithophytic or both, however, Paph. dianthum is the only species in this section which may be considered as calcicolous. Cochlopetalum section species such as Paph. glaucophyllum, Paph. liemianum, Paph. primulinum and Paph. victoria regina are all grow on calcarous rock or in humus on limestone hills. The exception is Paph. victoria mariae which whilst a lithophyte is not calcicolous and grows on steep wet cliffs of Andesite lava. The Paphiopedilum section is comprised of 12 species of which 8 are calcicolous and 4 are not. For example Paph. hirsutissimum, Paph. exul and Paph. charlesworthii are calcicolous lipophytes growing generally on limestone cliffs or hills whereas Paph. tigrinum grows on the rocky slopes of steep volcanic mountains and Paph. villosum which generally grows as an epihyte on trees. I need to correct Bob and Lyn Wellenstein's schedule regarding Paph. henryanum which is described in the IUCN Red List of threatened species as growing in humus on highly eroded crystalline limestone. Also, there are recent photos of this species growing directly on steep rock faces. However, it may grow in other situations. Almost all of the extensive Barbata section species such as Paph. appletonianum, Paph. wardii and Paph. venustum are not calcicolous and are generally humus epiphytes. I have added Paph. canhii, Paph. parnatanum, Paph. shoseri and Paph. sugiyamanum to the schedule prepared by Bob Lowenstein in the table below: substrate ph canhii Yes Lithophyte on No data. mossy weathered limestone. parnatanum Possibly Forest floor amongst mosses and leaf litter over limestone rocks. sugiyamanum Possibly Terrestrial or lithophyte on north facing slopes in leaf and humus in montane forest. No data. No data. Shady vertical cliffs on narrow mossy shelves with roots attached to the limestone substrate. In moss and leaf litter on limestone rocks, in subtropical or tropical moist montane forest. Terrestrial or lithophyte on north facing slopes in leaf and humus in montane forest.

5 PHRAGMIPEDIUM Many phragmipediums are lipophytic but only Phrag. kovachii and Phrag. fisheri are confirmed to be calcicolous with others such as Phrag. besseae growing on serpentine granite rock faces and the likes of Phrag. caudatum growing on trees or in shady humus. Advice from Alfredo Manrique based on laboratory analysis of dry orchid leaf tissue would indicate that Phrag. kovachii and Phrag. boissierianum from the east side of the Andes range at about 6000 to 7000 feet high, facing the Amazon basin have a high calcium content and that Phrag. caudatum is quite similar to Phrag. boissieranium with respect to the calcium content in leaves. Phrag. kovachii and Phrag. fischeri prefer a slightly basic medium of between Most other Phragmipediums prefer a range of 5-6. However, Phrag. extaminodium is said to prefer very acid conditions. It should be noted that both Alfredo Manrique and Glen Decker advocate use of dolomite stone in the potting mix for Phrag. kovachii. substrate ph kovachii Yes Dolomitic soil composed of crushed limestone with organic matter. fischeri Yes Substrate is most likely limestone Tropical cloud forest with cretacean limestone substrate is suggested. Grows along small rivers in fully shaded spots that are exposed to a constant breeze. Phrag. kovachii habitat Photo Alfredo Manrique Phrag. kovachii in situ Photo Alfredo Manrique

6 Phrag. kovachii in situ Photo Alfredo Manrique Phrag. fischeri Photo source Wikimedia Commons MEXIPEDIUM The habitat of this species is a karst outcrop of less than two hectares in length. At this time all of the plants of Mex. xerophyticum that have been found have been located on vertical rock walls, with a northern exposure. During one part of the year these plants do not receive direct sunlight. Successful growers of this species advocate either topdressing the potting mix with dolomite or using dolomite stones in the potting mix. substrate ph xerophyticum Yes In vertical faces of No data localised Karst available. limestone outcrops. Dry scrubland vegetation matrix in tropical rain forest. Mex. xerophyticum Photo source Wikimedia Commons Mex. xerophyticum Photo Tony Budrovich

7 THE PRACTICE OF USING DOLOMITE LIME IN POTTING MEDIA Many orchid nurseries and growers add dolomite lime in the form of ground dolomite limestone to their potting mix when making it up. They also top dress the mix once or twice a year. For example, Ezi-gro Orchids does this but does not add lime to Paph delenatii as it likes more acidity in its potting mix. The basic reason for adding lime is that most people use a pine bark based mix which becomes acid as it breaks down. The addition of lime is to make the mix more neutral and closer to what is optimal for the plant. It should be noted that the adding of dolomitic limestone will accelerate the breakdown of pinebark potting mixes. Extremely acid mixes can lead to major nutrient deficiencies and extremely basic mixes can lead to trace element deficiencies making a strong case for adding lime to a bark mix which has become "sour". I have seen growers add pieces of limestone to their potting mix in the past but this is unlikely to be effective as our coastal limestone is likely to be lacking in magnesium and does not match the quality of the best dolomite limestone available. Stephen Early in his article "LIME, CALCIUM and ph" states that "the term lime is often used for a number of products that are actually quite different. Lime comes from limestone rock, which is basically calcium carbonate (CaCO3), its most common impurity being magnesium carbonate (MgC03). No purification is done so the exact composition depends on what hill the limestone is dug from. If the limestone is crushed and bagged it is then sold as Garden Lime. If it contains a significant amount of magnesium carbonate, then it is sold as Dolomite Lime." He further says that lime and hydrated lime may add more calcium but only by making the mix very alkaline, which would damage the plants. The Watheroo Lime website states that "Dolomite differs from lime sand and limestone in that it contains magnesium as well as calcium. It is used to supply both of these elements and is a very effective neutralizing agent. It is a carbonate limestone type product that should contain between 8-12% Magnesium as Mg and 18-22% Calcium as Ca. Dolomite should contain less than 0.2% Sodium as well." I am now trialling the use of fine dolomite stones in the potting mix of my calcicolous Paphs, Phrag. kovachi hybrids and Mexipedium xerophyticum. It is my belief that whilst periodic "liming" of the potting media with dolomite lime is of benefit to balance ph, the introduction of dolomite stones may lead to less variation in ph due to the slow release of minerals. I have also come to the conclusion that this will need to be done with close consideration of water quality (Perth has hard scheme water), total dissolved salt levels (to avoid salt toxicity) and ph to balance what is optimum for various slipper orchid species so they can take in the required nutrients.

8 References and acknowledgements: Article - Supplementing Calcicolous Paphs - author Bob and Lyn Wellenstein. Article - LIME, CALCIUM and ph by Stephen Early - Orchid Societies Council of Victoria Website. Article - What is Dolomitic Lime - Watheroo Lime. Orchidwiz - orchid software program. Renziana (Journal of the Swiss Orchid Foundation) Vol1/2011 Paphiopedilum. Tropical Slipper Orchids - author Harold Koopowitz. Alfredo Manrique - Centro de Jardineria Manrique. Orchids Nov 2007 article "Culture Phragmipedium kovachii" by Glen Decker. The Rediscovery of Mexipedium xerophyticum (SotoArenas, Salazar, & Hágsater) V. A. Albert & M. W. Chase. Wikimedia Commons. Facebook - Photos of Paphipedilum orchids in situ - Ch Xuan Cahn of Hanoi, Vietnam.

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