By: Kyaw Nyunt
Photos: Kyaw Nyunt

 

Paphiopedilum tigrinum is  one of the most recently discovered species of Chinese Paphiopedilum. It was described first in 1990 in Orchid Advocate by Harold Koopowitz and Norito Hasegawa as Paphiopedilum tigrinum, and the same plant was named and published in Orchid Digest (by Jack Fowlie as Paphiopedilum markianum), and mentioned in Genus Paphiopedilum by Dr Phillip Cribb. The name Paphiopedilum markianum is also used in Orchids, by Kohji Karasawa, Published by Yama-Kei publishing Co., in 1996.

      In these papers, it is described as coming from one of the most remote areas of western China that abutts upon northern Myanmar,. It is said to grow on the north facing rocky slopes in shade, in the thickly-forested Gaoligong mountains that run north-south parallel to the Myanmar border along the western flank of the Salween river. It flowers in the wild at the beginning of the monsoon in June and early July.  The distribution of the plant is mentioned as south west China (west Yunnan) only, on the rocks in light shade on steep volcanic mountains 1400-1980m.On the 1st of May, 2005,

 

I received one Paphiopedilum plant with a single bloom from U Thein Aung, Park Warden of the Hkakaborazi National Park. When I looked it up in the book Genus Paphiopedilum by Phillip Cribb, the flower turned out to be Paphiopedilum tigrinum.    The roots of the plant grew along with the roots of Drynaria quercifolia.

      I immediately made plans to travel to the area and I went up to the habitat on 8th June, 2005. The journey was rough especially in the monsoon season but no rain nor storm could deter me from getting to see orchids!

      Medium and large evergreen trees of Quercus and Castanopsis prevail around 1200 to 1800m in the northernmost parts of Myanmar, changing to Rhododendrons and Magnolias from 1800 to 2400 m, and above 2400 m were Pines, Abies, and Taxus right up to the snow covered peaks.

            I found a colony of Paphiopedilum tigrinum growing on a large tree of Castanopsis indica high up on the branches 36m high. The branches were not covered with moss in the same way as  for other orchid colonies, but with Drynaria quercifolia roots and leaves.  From the ground, it was difficult to see the Paphiopedilum tigrinum colony, and I could only see the bottom of the branches from below. By May and June, the leaves of the Drynaria quercifolia had dried  off after the hot season of the summer months, and new leaves were just starting to emerge with the rainfall. The Paphiopedilum tigrinum with flower stems sprouting from the colony could be seen high on the brtanch through the skeleton leaves of Drynaria.  After the flowering season has passed, if there are no yellowish green flower of Paphiopedilum tigrinum, it is difficult to differentiate it from the large leaves of Coelogyne fimbriata from the ground, as the shapes are very much alike.

 

The host tree is Cartanopsis indica (Local name Thit-e) a large evergreen tree with serrated leaves and silvery grey warty fissured bark. Other orchids such as Dendrobium nobile, Dendrobium chrysanteum, Pleione maculata, Cymbidium eburneum, Appendicula sp, Coelogyne fimbriata, Bulbophyllum sp. were also seen on the tree. One small colony of Paphiopedilum tigrinum is seen from far below. I confirmed it with a binocular of 8 x 40 magnification, and saw eight flower stems sprouting out from the colony with yellowish green flowers. I was lucky enough to photograph the colony with my 6 x magnification, Sony Digital still camera.

  The tree was growing on the edge of the slope near the top of the ridge, and the ground was covered with Dinochoa maclellandi (Local name-Wanwe, the climbing bamboo) at the edge of the farmland plot owned by U Hta Phu Hpon Run. He kindly offered to climb the tree and get the orchid plant for me, while I looked around on the ridge at other tree canopies to check whether they had Paphiopedilum tigrinum on their branches.  We could only see the lower part of the branches with other species of Coelogyne, Bulbophyllums Dendrobiums, but not Paphiopedilium in flower. We tried to look around for other colonies, but we were not lucky, and there was only this one colony with fifteen plants and eight flower stem. Some of the flowers were still fresh and some had started to fade. At present this colony of Paphiopedilum tigrinum is thriving in my nursery in Yangon.

Plant and Flower Description
 

      The colour of the leaves is like the leaves of other Myanmar Paphiopedilum species Paphiopedilum villosum and Paphiopedilum parishii but the leaves are more stiff and erect than the leaves of the two earlier species and the size is smaller.

      The leaf tip is bilobed, i.e., unequal, at the apex. The number of leaves are 4-6, and ion size 3cm wide by 25-30cm long. The inflorescence is erect; each flower, peduncle pubescent, terete, 30-40 cm long. The bract is green with purple spots and purple longitudinal lines, length 4-6 cm, width 1.5-2 cm.

      The flower is much bigger than the size given for the Chinese Paphiopedilum as the measurement is 14 cm across with vertical length 10 cm.  The color of the dorsal sepal is yellowish green with deep maroon longitudinal line with different
 

breadth, erect, 4 cm wide, vertical length 4.5 cm. The synsepal is also  yellowish green with purple markings. Size of synsepal 2.5 cm wide, length 5 cm. The lateral petals slightly deflexed at the margins, color is brownish green at the base, pinkish at the broad apical part with two maroon longitudinal marks on each petals. Length 7-8 cm, width 1 cm at the base and 3 cm at the apex.

      The lip is brownish green, slightly tapering towards the apex, 3.5-4.0 cm long, 2.5 cm wide.

Staminode shape is subrhombic, size 11 mm long, 8 mm wide, central ridge in the middle with a little darker green than the edges.

 

      Habitat of Paphiopedilum tigrinum

Distribution: Northern most part of Myanmar in the Kachin state as epiphyte on branches of the host tree Castnopsis indica at an altitude of 1200m. In the background at the higher altitude are Rhododendrons and Magnolias at over 1800m to 2400m, and Pines, Abies and Taxus at 2400 m to 3000 m right up to snow covered peaks with 3000 m and over. However the Paphiopedilum tigrinum do not extend to the Rhododendron forest.   

 

Kyaw Nyunt is a Deputy General Manager (Rtd.) Myanmar Agriculture Service. He can be reached at:

kyawnyunt@mail4u.com.mm