Phragmipedium kovachii, aka PK

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.)

Phrag kovachii flowerPhragmipedium kovachii flower at the Pacific Orchid ExpoClose up of Phragmipedium kovachii lip

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.

Water drops on Phragmipedium kovachii flowerClose up of flower pouch on Phragmipedium kovachiiFlower bud on a Phragmipedium kovachii

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11 Comments on “Phragmipedium kovachii, aka PK”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Wow, what an amazing orchid! Those big petals remind me of an elephant. Incredible that it was just recently discovered.

  2. nancy Says:

    that flower is just incredible! imagine if it had been a 9-incher!!

  3. Brian Says:

    Great post Marc! It’s *such* a beauty.

    And I’m a little jealous beause I still haven’t seen one yet. I have an Emuelia Arias (kovachii x schlimii) seedling and it’s the most high-maintenance plant in my collection. It’s very sensitive to over-feeding, need high-quality water, lots of light, and they like a dolomite lime or oyster shell top-dressing every few months. I paid a lot for it on the hope that someday it will show up like the flowers featured in your post. Someday…
    you can see my initial purchase here:

  4. Gail Linstrom Says:

    My orchid is full of budds but before they open they fall off. The excisting
    flowers are perfect but not one budd has opened yet. What must I do?

  5. Marc Says:

    To Gail: when buds are dying prematurely, common problems to investigate include overwatering, underwatering, allowing the pot to sit in water, cold temps, or low humidity. It will help to ID your orchid so you can figure out its proper care conditions.

  6. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » Pacific Orchid Expo 2011 Says:

    […] Sure, there are standouts like this incredible lady slipper […]

  7. skootergrl Says:

    $150 for a seedling! That’s way more than I can afford. At least I can dream and enjoy your photos too 🙂

  8. Louise Says:

    Wow, and what a bloom it is! Sort of looks like Dumbo the elephant? Can’t wait to see more of these.

  9. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » Invasion of the Orchid Snatchers Says:

    […] The article includes info about several orchids, including Phrag kovachii, the giant purple lady slipper discovered in Peru in 2001. […]

  10. Elaine Lomocoise Says:

    What a stunning flower! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. I can only imagine how it would be full-sized (since you said this was on the “small” side)! Maybe someday in the future I’ll be able to afford one of them…

    Thank you.

  11. Jayde Says:

    THX that’s a great flower!