The Journal of the Canadian Orchid Congress
Le Journal de la Fédération Canadienne des Sociétés Orchidophiles

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Spring 1997
Volume 9 - - Number 2

Editor: Malcolm Adams


Phragmipedium besseae

by Ken Girard

A recent addition to the orchid world is P. besseae, the brightest coloured phrag species. The flowers are small compared to other species of phragmipediums, but what they lack in size they more than make up for in colour. There are two races of this plant, one from Peru and the other from Ecuador.

The leaves of P. besseae are unlike other phrags, appearing like a paphiopedilum, they are flat, moderately wide and a mid-green colour. Phragmipedium besseae belongs to the same section of phrags as does P. schlimii which is Micropetalum.

Plants from Peru have a wide geographical range, from Peru to Columbia, the flowers are orange/red in colour with wider petals and sepals, and the pouch opening is more closed. The staminode in this race of P. besseae is semi-circular with a reddish centre. The plant does not have extended rhizomes, but grows more like other phragmipediums, in clumps.

The plants from Ecuador have a limited range, are usually darker red in colour with narrower petals, the staminode is triangular in shape and usually has yellow in the centre of it. This form is known as the 'Zamoran' form, named after the area of Ecuador in which it was found. The plants have well developed rhizomes between growths, that can take up a lot of room as the plant grows. Most Phragmipedium besseae plants in cultivation and awarded are of this form as it is easier to grow, being more tolerant of cultivation. This form has recently been renamed to Phragmipedium dalessandroi by Dr. C. Dodson et al. (1996, Die Orchidee)

The separation of the two forms of P. besseae into separate species is based upon research which has found that 1) the two forms have different chromosome numbers from each other, 2) the flower colour and form is different, 3) the staminode shape and colour is different and 4) geographic distribution, are enough to make the separation of the two forms. The hybrid(?) between the two species is very beautiful but ends up being sterile due to chromosome incompatibility. Besides the red/orange colour forms of this species there are yellow flowering plants in cultivation and rumours of white flowers are also around. The yellow or 'aureum' form, P. besseae var. aureum 'Fox Valley Gold' was shown and received an HCC/AOS in 1992. This has since been selfed and seedlings are now starting to bloom, most of them are yellow to some degree. There are reports of the yellow fading to almost an ivory colour in some clones which leads the way for white flowers. If there is a white form of P. besseae this could also open an interesting line for hybridizing, as many people are trying to hybridize a white phrag. These colour forms of P. besseae appear to have arisen from the 'Zamoran' strain.

When observing your plants in flower if the staminode is somewhat circular with yellow on it then your plant is probably a hybrid between the two forms. This separation is going to lead to a hornets nest for hybridizers because without proper chromosome work being done on each plant used for hybridizing, using colour alone to tell the two forms apart is not valid enough. It is possible that temperature and light play an important role in the colour of the flower. In general cooler temperatures and more light create a redder flower as these conditions enhance sugar production in the cells and sugar enhances red pigments. As this species has only been in cultivation for a short time, compared to the other species of phrags, its cultural requirements are still open for debate. I have seen it grown in a mix very much like a paph mix, (fine fir bark, charcoal, chopped sphagnum moss and coarse perlite). In nature the plant is found at higher elevations (l400 - 1800 meters) affording the plants the cool moist habitats that they require. Yet, in cultivation many people report that growing the plants in the warm part of an intermediate house they perform best. They are easily grown under artificial lights in the home. As with most phrag species they should be kept evenly moist and seem to show no ill effect from being kept in shallow trays with 1-2 cm of water in the bottom.

This species is very sensitive to fertilizer; yellow and brown spots developed in the apex (growing point) of the plant first on the most rapidly growing leaves. At first this looks like a root rot problem due to excessive moisture but eventually the plants outgrow this spotted area when the fertilizer salts are reduced through leaching. The rest of the growth can be dark green and look quite good. As a word of caution when fertilizing use a very weak solution possibly down to 1/16th strength. (Liquid fertilizers seem to have less burning effect.) Always water the plants with plain water before they are fertilized or shortly there after.

Because this species is rhizomatous, pots should be large enough to allow for the runners to develop fully. Many growers grow their plants in bedding plant trays or in large flat pot known as bulb pans. Another method is to group several pots together so that when a rhizome reaches beyond the edge of one pot the new growth can be anchored into another. This method makes it difficult to move the plants around but allows them to develop fully. The pots can be taped together to make the whole cluster more secure. Once a growth is established in a new pot, the rhizome should not be severed until the growth is ready to send out its own rhizome. Higher light and possibly keeping the rhizomes with in the pot may reduce rhizome length, as they may start to produce a plantlet once the rhizome comes into contact with the pot edge.

Many hybrids made with P. besseae are very popular today. With the two forms of P. besseae being separated into separate species, by some taxonomists, there is going to be a lot of confusion with the current hybrids. It may be nearly impossible to remember which species was used for certain crosses. It is possible that the RHS orchid hybrid registrar will ignore the separate classification and say that for registration purposes only P. besseae will be accepted.

Hybrids made with species from the Platypetalum section are quite outstanding, they are vigorous growers, bloom well and have rich vibrant colours. P. Memoria Dick Clements (P. besseae x P. sargentianum), P. Andean Fire (P. besseae x P. lindleyanum) and P. Rosalie Dixier (P. besseae x P. kaieteurum) are definite show stoppers. Because of the wide petals on both sides of the parentage these hybrids flowers are quite large with full flat petals and a branching inflorescence making a beautiful display.

When hybridized with P. longifolium, P. Eric Young, the flowers can range from coral to a rich salmon. Depending on the form of P. longifolium and/or P. besseae that is used the resulting progeny can be quite variable. Seedlings have bloomed with soft pastel colours with petals cascading down at a 45 degree angle to vibrant salmon colours with the petals sticking straight out at 90 degrees. Phragmipedium Eric Young is a very vigorous grower which produces many flowers on a branched inflorescence on well grown plants.

A hybrid which is quite elegant is P. Ruby Slippers, P. besseae x P. caudatum, coral salmon colour with elongated petals. The hybrid between P. besseae and P. schlimii, P. Hanne Popow, has flowers a bit smaller than P. besseae which are a mid pink in colour. The colour can vary quite a bit with this hybrid, some clones the colour is a solid pink and quite intense while on others the upper half of the petal can be mid pink and the lower half being pale pink or white. Other clones can have flares or streaks of mid pink with lighter backgrounds on the petals. Culture has a large part to play on the colour with this hybrid as cooler temperatures and higher light will accentuate the rose tones giving the flower a lot more colour.

Hybrids made with the Himantopetalum section are well worth growing, such as P. Mary Bess (P. caricinum x P. besseae), P. Ecua-Bess (P. pearcei x P. besseae) and P. Will Chantry (P. klotzscheanum x P. besseae). All of these plants produce flowers in the coral peach tones, grow well and bloom profusely. Phragmipedium Ecua-Bess was registered as P. ecuadorense x P. besseae, since P. ecuadorense is considered a synonym for P. pearcei by the RHS hybrid registrar, the proper parentage should read as above.

There are now second generation hybrids appearing on the market, one such hybrid is P. Don Wimber ( P. besseae x P. Eric Young). This hybrid looks like what most people wanted Eric Young to look like. Strong bold petals with good colour. The flower size is a bit smaller than P. Eric Young but has a pleasing shape and good proportion. Phragmipedium besseae Grouville (P. Eric Young x P. Hanne Popow) is an exciting cross, the color is hot pink on a flower of good size, shape and substance.

Other P. besseae hybrids to look for are; P. April Fool (x Cardinale), P. China Dragon (x Grande), P. Flying Fortress (x Ainsworthii (syn. Calurum)), P. Franz Glanz (x richteri), P. Elizabeth March (x sedenii) and Living Fire (x Sorcerer's Apprentice). Of course there will be others coming along very shortly as P. besseae hybrids are extremely popular. With the use of P. besseae in hybridizing, interest in Phragmipediums is again at an all time high and should continue to be for some time yet.

Ken Girard is a horticulturist with the university of Calgary. He has been growing orchids for over 25 years and is currently a probationary judge for the AOS. His interest in phragmipediums has led to some great friendships and interesting discussions, and eventually to a book on the subject which will be released in early 1997. He is also a past president and current Education Committee director for the COC.


by Marilyn Light

The South African orchid, Disa uniflora and its hybrids, produce some of the most brilliant flowers known in the orchid family. The triangle-shaped blooms are composed of three colourful sepals, the smaller petals and lip playing a lesser role in the overall effect. The uppermost sepal is cupped, usually in a contrasting colour and is striped or sometimes spotted. Flower colours range from cream through various shades of pink, orange, yellow and red. The large flowers last three to eight weeks and are superb for floral arrangement. Disas produce an annual rosette of leaves which, if the plant is large enough, will give rise to an inflorescence. After flowering is finished, numerous vegetative offsets are produced around the base of the plant. Once the offsets have developed roots, they should be removed and potted separately. The old plant will eventually yellow and die but not before giving the proud grower many divisions to share with friends.


Of all the cultural requirements, adequate light is probably the most important consideration. Adequate light produces vigorous, disease-resistant plants. Flower colour and production are superior. Disas can grow in full sun provided their roots are kept cool. Thus, in spring and autumn, Disas will flourish outdoors. During winter, of course, this is not possible, so Disas must be grown on a windowsill, in a cool greenhouse or under artificial lights. If growing on a south-facing windowsill, provide a sheer curtain to diffuse the sunlight and shield the pots from the heating effect of the sun. White paper or Styrofoam work well.

If a plant is receiving insufficient light, it will bend toward a uni-directional light source and/or become pale and floppy. If bending or leggy growth are observed, gradually increase the light. It is normal for certain plants to have reddened foliage.


Disas are reputed to be intolerant of high temperatures. These plants should be kept as cool as possible during warm spells. Healthy plants can withstand periods of 25 C - 30 C without significant damage. When the weather is warm, water the lawn in a shady part of the garden and place the plants there. Evaporative cooling in the surround will assist in keeping the plants cool. Heat-stressed plants may fold their leaves upwards but the rosette will regain normal appearance when the weather cools. It is very important to keep the plants well watered during hot weather.


Water quality is very important to successful Disa culture. Water should be either deionized or collected as rainwater or melted snow. The same quality of water should be used when diluting fertilizer or pesticides. Never use chlorinated tap water on Disas.

Disas have been successfully grown hydroponically. For a few plants, each can have its own reservoir. A plastic food container such as a margarine tub serves this purpose very well. Pour water into the reservoir. Replenish as needed. Discard several days after fertilizer application and replenish with fresh water. Disas can 'drink' a lot, especially in hot weather.


Disas respond very well to dilute fertilizer application. Use 1 ml 7-7-7 or 7-9-5 with micronutrients including chelated iron, diluted in 5 litres of water. Pour some of the solution into a reservoir. Allow the plant to absorb this for a day then drain and replace with fresh water. Fertilize every three weeks when the plants are cool but not at all if the plants are heat-stressed.


Mature plants produce an inflorescence in spring, flowering from May through July. Flowering is initiated by the lengthening day. If growing Disas under lights, it is therefore important to vary the day length: 10-12 hour days from September to March, 16 hour days from April through August.


Disas can be afflicted by whatever pests are present in your collection but they are not overly susceptible to infestation. Aphids can attack flower buds and flowers.

Fungal and bacterial rots can become a problem with plants grown indoors, especially in warm, humid environments where air circulation is poor. It is probably safer to grow this orchid on a windowsill where the air is dry. The plants will flourish as long as water is always available in a reservoir. Cultural technique rather than fungicides is the best way to deal with rots.


Re-pot Disas once a year, in September, or once new rosettes have begun to form. An ideal time is when the nights are cool and the daytime temperatures hover around 15 - 20 C. Water a plant well then remove it from its pot. Gently tease off moss to expose the roots and the finger-like tubers. Grasp an offset firmly and gently pull it away from the mother plant. Repeat until all offsets with roots have been separated. Remove any excess old medium. The largest offsets will flower next season while the sometimes numerous smaller offsets will flower in two or more years. Wrap the root/tuber ball in a mass of fresh, moist New Zealand Sphagnum Moss. Pot the largest offsets separately in deep, 4"to 6"dia. plastic pots. Smaller offsets may be potted together or individually in smaller pots. Water plants thoroughly. If desired, an application of Superthrive can be given at this time (1 drop per litre). Keep newly potted plants out of direct sun for about a week. Resume fertilizer application after two weeks.


Disas may be grown in New Zealand Sphagnum Moss or in hydroponic gravel. Rinse the medium thoroughly with de-ionized water before using. Fresh, wild sphagnum moss is not recommended.


One of the joys of Disas is the relative ease with which seeds may be set and germinated. Not all plants will be good seed and/or pollen parents so it is best to experiment. Record the day when a flower opens. Pollen collected when a flower first opens does not germinate well but five days afterwards, pollen from the same flower germinates within hours. Remove pollen masses from the desired pollen parent: each mass is equipped with its own sticky disk and there are two pollen masses per flower. Removing one does not affect the flower longevity. Press the pollen onto the round white stigma located between the bases of the two lower sepals. Count at least 30 days from the day the flower opened before harvesting a seed capsule. Some plants take a bit longer to mature their seeds. Seeds can either be removed from the capsule and sown aseptically on special germination media or the seed can be sprinkled on moist sphagnum moss which has been boiled in de-ionized water then cooled. Further details on this latter technique may be found in "Disa uniflora: Its Propagation and Cultivation", published by the Disa Orchid Society of South Africa.

1997, Marilyn Light, Ottawa Orchid Society

The Orchids In The Ottawa District:
Floristics, Phytogeography, Population Studies and Historical Review.

by Joyce M. Reddoch and Allan H. Reddoch Special Issue of The Canadian Field-Naturalist, Volume 111, Number 1, 1997

This 186-page work describes the 44 orchid species that have been found within 50 km of Canada's National Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. It contains information on identification, past abundance, population changes, development cycles and relative stability of colonies. It is presented as a baseline study from which to design further research and prepare effective planning measures to protect wild orchid populations.

The Introduction describes the history of collecting and recording since 1856, principal orchid habitats, local distribution patterns, rare species, colour forms, capsules and seeds, blooming dates and other topics.

Each species account provides detailed information on the above topics, as well as a brief description of the plant. A drawing and a spot distribution map accompany each account. Correlations of some species with the Canadian Shield or the St. Lawrence Lowlands, or with calcareous rock, sandstone or sand deposits are shown. Long-lived colonies of many species are described, and population studies are included for Corallorhiza striata, Goodyera pubescens, G. tesselata, Platanthera hookeri, P. orbiculata and Spiranthes cernua.

To obtain copies of this journal issue, send CAN $10. plus $2.50 (postage and handling) for each copy to The Canadian Field-Naturalist, P.O. Box 35069, Westgate P.O., Ottawa, Canada K1Z 1A2

Marilyn Light, Ottawa Orchid Society

Un précurseur, … la recherche des orchidées du Québec

par Viateur Boutot*

Ce n'est pas d'hier qu'il y a des passionnés d'orchidées au Québec. Au début du siècle, un ingénieur civil venu d'Angleterre, William Henry Mousley, se passionne pour la nature de son pays d'adoption. Établi à Hatley, dans les Cantons de l'Est, Mousley, alors qu'il est à l'emploi de l'Ottawa-Toronto Railway, consacre une grande partie de son temps à l'observation de la nature, en particulier des oiseaux. De santé fragile, au cours de la guerre, il devient naturaliste à plein temps. Le 15 mai 1918, alors qu'il étudie le comportement d'une fauvette, la paruline tigrée (Dendroica tigrina), à l'orée d'une cédrière marècageuse près de Hatley, il découvre une orchidée rare du sud du Québec, Calypso bulbosa.

À la même époque, il trouve d'autres espèces dans les environs de Hatley, notamment deux espèces rares, Arethusa bulbosa et Cypripedium reginae. De découverte en découverte, en 1919, sur un territoire d'à peine 6,5 km2, il a déjà identifié trente orchidées (espèces, variétés et hybrides).

Sachant qu'à Fairlee, au Vermont, on a trouvé 33 espèces d'orchidées, il reprend ses herborisations en 1920 avec un nouvel enthousiasme. Étendant son rayon d'action à environ 25 km de Hatley, jusqu'à Beebe et à la tourbière de Waterville, il découvre trois autres espèces : Amerorchis rotundifolia, Platanthera hookeri et Pogonia ophioglossoides.

l'été 1922, dans le marécage de Beebe, il trouve trois nouvelles espèces : Goodyera oblongifolia, Platanthera clavellata et Platanthera lacera. L'année suivante, il découvre quatre autres orchidées: Goodyera pubescens, Platanthera blephariglottis, Platanthera x media et Spiranthes casei. Ainsi, à la fin de 1923, il a atteint un total de 40 taxons (espèces, variétés ou hybrides) pour la seule région de Hatley.

Deux ans après s'être installé à Montréal, il obtient, en 1926, un poste à la bibliothèque Emma Shearer Wood de l'Université McGill, spécialisée en ornithologie et en zoologie. il y travaille une douzaine d'années.

Il s'intéresse à l 'Epipactis helleborine qui à l'époque n'a été trouvée que dans les limites du Mont-Royal. Bientôt, elle est découverte ailleurs sur l'Île de Montréal. Après une étude détaillée sur cette orchidée, il publie en 1927 un article dans lequel il fait état de trois formes dont une entièrement blanche.

Mousley herborise également dans les régions de St-Lambert, Laval, Terrebonne, Oka et St-Hyppolyte. En juin 1927, après avoir cherché pendant plusieurs années à découvrir Cypripedium arietinum, il en découvre deux colonies à Chambly puis, une semaine plus tard, une autre à St-Francois de Laval à proximité de Corallorhiza striata. Au cours des années suivantes, il trouve à Oka onze orchidées dont Amerorchis rotundifolia, Aplectrum hyemale et Arethusa bulbosa.

Parmi les contributions remarquables de Mousley à la connaissanoe des orchidées du Québec, notons sa découverte, le 27 juin 1940, de Listera australis à Ste-Dorothée de Laval. Cette orchidée n'avait pas été trouvée au Québec jusqu'à ce moment. Il découvre également dans une petite tourbière de l'endroit Calopgon tuberosus, Platanthera blephariglottis et Pogonia ophioglossoides.

En outre, on lui doit la découverte d'une orchidée rare, Spiranthes casei (alors nommée Spiranthes vernalis). Après l'avoir d'abord trouvée à Hatley en 1923 puis à Ste-Dorothée de Laval en 1941, Mousley en fait état dans des articles en 1941 et 1942. Ce n'est qu'en 1974 qu'il est confirmé qu'il s'agit d'une espèce distincte des autres orchidées déjà connues au Canada. En somme, après toutes ces années, ce sont près de 50 taxons d'orchidées différents qui ont été trouvés par ce naturaliste.

La passion de Mousley pour les orchidées ne se limite pas à découvrir et à identifier le plus grand nombre possible d'orchidées. Il étudie le développement souterrain et la propagation végétative de Calypso bulbosa, Epipactis helleborine, Malaxis unifolia, Spiranthes casei, Spiranthes cernua et Spiranthes romanzoffiana. Il s'intéresse également à la pollinisation par l'abeille Chlorhalictus smilacini de Spiranthes romanzoffiana et aux variations de couleur chez Corallorhiza maculata. En 1934, dans un article sur deux espèces apparentées, Habenaria (Plantanthera) macrophylla et Habenaria (Platanthera) orbiculata, il suggère de ne pas de se fier au diamètre des feuilles pour identifier les espèces mais plut“t sur la longeur de l'éperon** ; il dépasse rarement 25 mm chez Habenaria orbiculata alors qu'il atteint de 30 à 40 mm chez l'autre espèce. En 1993, une étude confirme que ces deux espèces doivent être considérées comme étant distinctes. Les rèsultats de ses recherches sont publiès notamment dans la revue britannique Orchid Review et The Canadian Field-Naturalist.

Dans le domaine de la taxonomie, quatre taxons proposés par Mousley pour identifier des formes et des variétés sont toujours valides : Amerorchis rotundifolia f. lignite, Epipactis helleborine f. monotropoides, Malaxis monophyllos var. monophyllos f. bifolia, Malaxis unifolia f. bifolia.

Sa mort en 1949, Henry Mousley avait publié 131 articles scientifiques au Canada, aux États-Unis et en Angleterre, dont 32 sur les orchidées.. En tant que naturaliste, sa contribution à la connaissance de la flore québécoise est remarquable notamment en ce qui a trait aux orchidées du sud du Québec dont il a étudié la morphologie, l'écologie et la répartition.

La passion soutenue d'Henry Mousley pour les orchidées est admirable. Notre société orchidophile devrait s'en inspirer et favoriser la connaissance et la conservation de nos espèces indigènes.

* Résumé basé sur l'article d'André Sabourin et Roger Perreault, Henry Mousley and the Orchids of Southern Quebec publié dans The Canadian Field-Naturalist : April-June 1995, vol. 109, no. 2, pp. 273-281. Nous avons également consulté la version francaise, Henry Mousley et les orchidées des régions de Hatley et de Montréal publiée par Quatre-Temps - La revue des Amis du Jardin botanique de Montréal, 18, no 4, hiver 1995, pp. 56-57.

** Excroissance du labelle, en arrière de celui-ci, de forme cylindrique, conique ou globuleuse, contenant du nectar.

Viateur Boutot, Société des Orchidophiles de Québec. L'ORCHIDEXPRESS, Avril, 1997

The Plant Collectors: Benedict Roezl (1824-1885)

by Ruth Ann Moger

Roezl was the son of a Czech gardener, and apprenticed, at the age of twelve, in the gardens of the Count of Thun in Bohemia. He subsequently worked in several important continental gardens, including those of Baron von Hugel at Vienna and Count Liechtenstein in Moravia, and the famous nursery of Van Houtte at Ghent.

In 1854 he emigrated to Mexico, where he founded a nursery and and issued a catalogue of the Mexican conifers he had for sale. In 1861 he introduced the cultivation of the Rame (Boehmeria tenacissima) as a textile plant. When he was forty-four years old he lost his left arm in an accident with a machine he had invented to extract fibers from plants. He then started his life of a plant collector working for Henry Sander of St. Albans in England.

Roezl traveled Central America and the west coast of North America; he sent home 10,000 orchids from Panama and Colombia in 1869. The rare Telepogon orchids that he collected at 11,000 feet died as soon as they were brought down to warmer levels, but he sent 3,000 Odontoglossums to Europe. He combed the Sierra Madre for orchids, 3,500 of which reached London in fine condition. He went across the Isthmus of Panama to Guayra and Caracas and sent eight tons of orchids and ten tons of other plants back to London.

In Mexico, in the vicinity of the volcano of Colina, the Indians learned that Roezl would pay for orchids and they brought him 100,000 plants. (If parts of Mexico are desert and devoid of vegetation, is it because Roezl was there?)

In 1871, Roezl brought back to England dried specimens of Dracula chimaera which he had collected in Columbia. When the German Professor Reichenbach introduced Dracula chimaera to Victorian horticulture, he described the flowers as a marvel that had lurked for thousands of years unseen in solitude.

Live plants proved a challenge during transportation. Its is frightening to think how many draculas and other fragile orchids succumbed. Even though there is evidence that the plants seem to have been recognised as delicate and treated with more care, the vast majority still perished during the long journey from their homeland. Of 27,000 plants dispatched by Roezl in a consignment from New Granada (in present day Columbia), just two plants survived the long and disastrous journey to England.

In 1874 Roezl returned to Europe and spent the rest of his life living off his modest fortune at Smichow near Prague. References:

The Garden Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society , Vol. 122, Feb. 1997)
The Plant Hunters by B. J. Healey, Charles Scribners sons, 1975 The Golden Age of Plant Hunters by Kenneth Lemmon, Phoenix House, 1968
The Plant Hunters by Alice M. Coats, McGraw-Hill, 1970

Ruth Ann Moger, Orchid Society of Nova Scotia

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