Orchid News # 34

Phragmipedium kovachii
, Beyond de Discovery
                                                   by Alfredo Manrique

After years of rumors about a new Phragmipedium species seen in the eastern slopes of the Andes in the remote highland jungle in northern Peru, Phragmipedium kovachii was finally described in June of 2002 The species is found as endemic in the district of Pardo Miguel, Province of Rioja, San Martin, Peru. This part of the country is well know about its richness in orchids much of them not yet identified.
Phragmipedium kovachii grows in populations usually of less than 2500 adult plants, at altitudes from 1600 to 1900 meters above sea level.
The weather conditions in the area are, warm days a (24ºC) cool nights (10ºC).
Air humidity over 85º, rains almost daily in low intensity in the winter and in high intensity in the summer, which coincides with the peak flower season, main reason for the late discovery of this amazing species with purple flowers and with a petal span up to 23cm.
To understand the growing habits of the species a full study of the soil and tissues was undergone.
Two soil samples were taken from two of the three habitats

Hábitat 2 1.7 1.9 60 85% 0.41 7.9
Hábitat 3 1.7 1.7 185 53.8% 0.19 7.99
  OM P K CaCO 3 EC dS/m pH

OM: Organic matter
EC: Electric conductivity

A foliar analysis of developed leaves was carried out, producing the following results:

N P K Ca Mg Fe
0.72 0.08% 0.49% 2.34% 0.50% 179ppm

According to the results, Phragmipedium Kovachii grows in an alkaline soil, with ample drainage, low in nutrients, with high consumption of Calcium, Magnesium, as well as Iron.

In may of 2003, 5 adult plants of Phragmipedium Kovachii were collected and brought in to cultivation in Lima, Peru. Lima has a mild climate, the maximum temperature is 30oC and the minimum is 11oC, the relative humidity is usually, over 80% year around.
Skies are usually overcast in the winter.
The plants were grown under medium light with no direct sunlight at any time. In a shade house without heating,
Wire Baskets of 12-inch diameter lined with a fine plastic mesh were chosen as containers as the collected plants carried at minimum 15 growths each... After trying several soil mixtures, the best’s results were found using the following materials:

Crushed stones, particles of 0.8cm 40%
Fine fir bark 30%
Charcoal 15%
Coarse Perlite 10%
Fine grounded Oyster shells 5%

To have a continuous calcium source, 20% of the stones in the soil mixture are limestone rocks, while the rest is granite.
As in the habitat a thin layer of Sphagnum moss is placed on top of the soil mix.
Watering must be done with water with a low content of total dissolve salts, fewer than 60 ppm is well advised.
The plant should be fertilized once a week or every two waterings, using a total solution of 350 ppm of a 15 5 15 fertilizer that carries 8% of Calcium, 2% of Magnesium and microelements such as Zn, Mn, Fe and B. Additional applications of Ca and Magnesium are advised.
The species is able to flowers year around, under cultivation... However, is advised to manage to avoid flowers in the hot months of the year as the flowers tend to show deformations and without full development of the flower parts.

The in vitro procedures require of the use of germination media with a pH over 7 and a TDS no higher than 1500ppm. The room temperature is advised to be kept around the 22ºC.
The success in the in vitro procedure, lays mainly in a frequent replating and the addition of calcium and Magnesium in the media formula.

After 8 to 14 months after sowing the seedlings, they should be ready to be put in the nursery in what we call the deflasking process; the key for a high rate of survival is a high humidity environment for no less than 4 weeks with a gradual reduction to the air humidity until reach the nursery air humidity.
An application of Silicon and daily feedings in the first month showed to be very important for the seedlings to adapt to thee new growing conditions, day temperatures at this stage must be around 26ºC and night temperatures around 18ºC.

Alfredo Manrique
Lima Perú

Owner of Centro de Jardinería Manrique. in business since 1979.
Licensed Orchid nursery and in Vitro culture laboratory.
The nursery is dedicated to grow peruvian orchid species and its hybrids produced in their facilities , since 2003 grows Phragmipedium kovachii and its hybrids.

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