Rare Penang Slipper Orchid (Paph. callosum var. sublaeve) FOUND!

Penang’s lush and verdant hills are home to various kinds of flora and fauna. In the early years of Penang, Penang Hill used to be a haven for botanist and naturalists alike. The likes of Charles Curtis collected many endemic plant specimens from the hills and transplanted them in the Penang Botanic Gardens. Chief among these plants was one which was like none other, the Penang Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum callosum var. sublaeve).

A potted Penang Slipper Orchid.Rare in the wild but a commonly cultivated by Orchid Enthusiasts around the world

A potted Penang Slipper Orchid.Rare in the wild but a commonly cultivated by Orchid Enthusiasts.

Mention its name and you will excite any serious orchid enthusiast out there. Unfortunately, it is this same enthusiasm for the Penang Slipper Orchid which has caused its precipitous demise from the forests of Penang. Once common, today this orchid is almost elusive, being collected to the brink of extinction by greedy orchid collectors. But even now it can be still found growing in the most inaccessible and remote areas of Penang. I myself have been looking for this orchid for 10 years before I found it growing near a remote stream in Penang.

Slipper Orchids require damp environments to grow well. The speciment in this post was found near a stream on a boulder.

Slipper Orchids require damp environments to grow well. The Slipper Orchid Colony in this post was found near this stream on a boulder.

And to add to the excitement it was not just one plant that I found, but a whole colony growing on a single boulder by the side of a hill stream! There were 5 separate Slipper Orchid plants which I found growing in this colony. Unfortunately none were found flowering at the time of the photo.

Specimen No 1 and No 2.

Specimen No 1 and No 2.

Specimens No 3, 4 and 5

Specimens No 3, 4 and 5

Of the 5 separate plants which were found growing on the boulder, Specimen 1 and 2 were found closest to the river with Specimen 2 being the nearest to the flowing water’s edge, Specimen 3, 4 and 5 were found on a relatively dry and flat part of the same boulder.

Specimen No 1. A healthy plant with many young shoots

Specimen No 1. A healthy plant with many young shoots. Found growing among tall grass.

Specimen No 2 was found closest to the stream's edge

Specimen No 2 was found closest to the stream’s edge

Of the 5 plants, only 2 plants showed a past history of blooming. These were plants No 2 and No 3 as shown in the following photos.

Close up shot of specimen No 2's leaves

Close up shot of specimen No 2

Specimen No 3 showing evidence of past flowering

Specimen No 3 showing evidence of past flowering

Close up of specimen No 4 and No 5

Close up of specimen No 4 and No 5

Its remote location has kept the Penang Slipper Orchid colony away from the hands of greedy collectors.Let's hope it stays safe!

Growing in a constantly damp environment.

The remote location of this Penang Slipper Orchid colony has kept it away from the hands of greedy collectors. Do continue following my blog as I will be going again to catch a glimpse of its flower in the near future.In the meanwhile let’s hope this slipper orchid colony continues to stay safe!