Colours and shapes
There is no other orchid as magnificent as Paphiopedilum. The plant is also known as the Venus slipper, and has an eye-catching lip, slender stem and sweeping petals that seem to have sprung straight from a fairytale. The orchid has tall, attractive green foliage, which means that this plant is very pleasant to look at even without flowers. However, the flowers are certainly worth it: russet, yellow or green, with attractive markings and an elegant voluptuous shape.
The name is derived from Paphos, a town in Cyprus, where the goddess Aphrodite arose from the sea, and ‘pedilion’ which means ‘slipper’ in classical Greek. Ironically enough there is not a single wild Paphiopedilum to be found anywhere in Cyprus. The orchid was officially described for the first time in 1886 and created great excitement amongst Victorians because of its somewhat erotic appearance. For that reason Paphiopedilum is still viewed in the symbolism of plants as an exciting gift between lovers.
In the wild Paphiopedilum grows mainly in South-East Asia, where there are 60 to 80 species. The orchid can thrive in both a tropical and subtropical climate. Unlike many other orchids, Paphiopedilum grows in the soil and obtains moisture and nutrition from it. The purse-shaped lip is actually a fly trap which helps to pollinate other Paphiopedilums. The orchid uses scent to attract flying insects to the flower, which can only reach the nectar through a narrow opening where they pass the pistil and the stamens. Once they are finished drinking, they take the pollen away on their body to the next Paphiopedilum and deposit it on the pistil when they crawl inside.