The Slipper Orchids in Sichuan
Orchid family is one of the largest families of flowering plants in the world, including about 28000 currently accepted species which belongs to about 763 genera. In China about 1300 orchid species have been recorded. And most of these species are found in South and Southwest China. The Orchids are easily distinguished from other plants, as they share some very evident characteristics such as bilateral symmetry of the flower, a nearly always highly modified petal (labellum), many resupinate flowers, fused stamens and carpels, and extremely small seeds.
Though orchids are widespread on earth, they are becoming more and more endangered because of habitat damage and over collection.
As one of the most concentrated orchid habitat in China, Sichuan has more than 440 orchid species. Slipper orchids(Cypripedium) are mainly distributed here.
There are estimated 50 species of slipper orchids in the world and about 24 of them are found in Sichuan. They are named after their slipper-shaped lips. Most of them have high ornamental value. Slipper orchids live in the temperate zone and most of them grow in the altitude of 1300-3500m. They prefer limestone rocks, screes and stone banks. You can find them usually under light shade and preferably on north-facing slopes.Some of them are very rare such as Cypripedium palangshanense,so far as now it just be recorded in very few site.
We photographed many beautiful slipper orchids species in the mountains of western China. Here we are going to share some of the highlights with you.
According to its name, we can know that this species mostly distributes in the high mountains at the edge of Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. Actually it should be regarded as one of the most common slipper orchids we can see in the wild. It often has darkly chestnut flowers.
2. Cypripedium flavum
Being different from the dark flower of Tibetan slipper orchid,the C. flavum has light yellow flowers. In some places of Sichuan, they often grow besides each other.
3. Cypripedium henryi
Cypripedium henryi is closely related to European native C. calceolus , but it has two to four, smaller, green flowers. In Sichuan, it usually flowers in early to mid May.
This picture was shot in the forest in west Chengdu.
4. Cypripedium bardolphianum
Compared to other slipper orchids, it is really dwarf and has a single smaller flower. You will easily ignore them if you walk fast.
5. Cypripedium plectrochilum
This slipper orchid has an even more petty flower in contrast with its body. There is an obvious difference between it and other slipper orchids: the front of its lip becomes sharp.
6. Cypripedium guttatum
This one is just a bit taller than C. bardolphianum, but its flower is so cute with purple spots that you can never miss it.
7. Cypripedium shanxiense
It looks similar with C. henryi but has smaller brown flowers. It was first recorded in Shanxi province, and can be found in Sichuan,Qinghai,Gansu and other places as well.