Can you believe that scientists didn’t discover this large purple flower until the 21st century? Phragmipedium kovachii, conveniently abbreviated as PK, hid in the Peruvian Amazon until 2001. After their discovery, it took several years for plants to legally enter cultivation, and now they’re starting to appear at orchid shows. Dave and I found this gorgeous lady slipper making its debut at last weekend’s Pacific Orchid Expo. This remarkable flower was almost 6 inches (15 cm) wide; some PK blooms can be as large as 9 inches (23 cm.)
Orchid pros consider PK the most exciting discovery of the past hundred years. The brilliant, oversize blossoms on these Paph relatives can make any flower lover swoon. However, the species requires precise watering and potting conditions, and it’s difficult to grow. Fortunately, hybrids are easier to grow, and some crosses are already entering the market. They’ll bring traits of this magnificent flower into more common cultivation. Hybrids will also lower prices. At the show, some of these seedlings cost $150 each. In coming years, hardier and more affordable varieties will reveal some of PK’s mysteries from deep in the Amazon.
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