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Paphiopedilum canhii - a new species from Northern Vietnam

Last modified on 9/6/2010 at 3:03:00 PM. Total 6238 views.


Flower of Paph. canhii type specimen, front view

Type plant of Paphiopedilum canhii with flower buds

Leaves of Paph. canhii from the type plant showing upper and lower surfaces.
Photo by Chu Xuan Canh

During botanical field explorations in 2009, the limestone areas of northern Vietnam and southern China were defined as distinct and a significant center of Paphiopedilum speciation and diversity (Averyanov 2008). These studies revealed more than 25 fairly isolated local endemics with surprisingly restricted and disjunctive distributions.

Among them are highly prized species and varieties of Paphiopedilum  (see table on the yellow box below) (Averyanov 2008; Liu Zhong-Jian, Chen Sing-Chi and Cribb 2009). Southern China and Northern Vietnam have been a priority for botanical explorations and investigations during the last decades, whereas until now vast limestone areas in northern Vietnam and in northern Laos remained unexplored.

Unusual and exciting orchids such as Bulbophyllum paraemarginatum Aver., Dendrobium farinatum Schildh.&Schraut, Dendrobium trantuanii Perner et X.N. Dang, Dendrobium vietnamense Aver., Hayata glandulifera Aver. and Sunipia nigricans Aver. were recently discovered in this area (Perner and Dang 2003; Schildhauermand Schraut 2004; Averyanov 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009). We always expected many more discoveries from this territory that for many years was inaccessible by botanists. Exciting discoveries of new and unusual Paphiopedilum species from this region confirms this. Here, we present another interesting new Paphiopedilum species with comments on its phenology, distribution, ecology and taxonomic position.

Paphiopedilum canhii Aver. & O. Gruss, sp. nov.

Planta rosularis, terrestris; foliis 3-4(5), oblongis, acutis, 5-7 cm longis, 1.5-2(2.5) cm latis, supra manifeste tessellatis, subtus atroviolascentibus. Inflorescentia erecta, uniflora, (6)8-10 cm longa, pubescens. Flores 6-8 cm in diametro. Sepalum dorsale ovatum, acutum, album, nervis 5-7 purpureis. Petala patula, anguste cuneata, acuminata, dilute viridia ad roseola, striis 7-9 purpureis, margine ciliata. Labellum opaco-viride, intus basi dense pilosum. Columna laete viridis. Staminodium magnum, integrum, late ovatum vel ovato-ellipticum, planum, album ad dilute virescentium, nervis irregularibus virescentibus.

Type northern Vietnam, coll. Chu xuan canh, no CXC 101, November 14, 2009; flowered under cultivation at Hanoi orchid Chu Xuan Canh orchid nursery in March 22-April 8, 2010 (HN); d-exsiccates of Vietnamese flora 0170/CXC 101.

Description Terrestrial sympodial rosulateherb with 3-4(5) leaves. Leaves elliptic to oblong-elliptic, acute or sub-acute, slightly emarginate and shortly apiculate at the apex, 5-7 cm long, 1.5-2(2.5) cm wide, distinctly tessellated light and darker green above, pale green and heavily marked with dark dirty-violet below. Inflorescence erect, one-flowered; peduncle (6)8-10 cm long, slender, dark green, sometimes with violet tint, pubescent with dirty olive-violet hairs. Bract narrowly ovate-elliptic, acute, 1.2-1.4 cm long, 0.5 cm wide, green, olive-violet pubescent. Flowers 6-8 cm across. Dorsal sepal ovate to broadly ovate, acute; 2-3 cm long, 1.5-1.8 cm wide; white, slightly greenish at the base, in lower half veined with 5-7 purple nerves; densely hairy outside. Synsepal narrowly ovate, acute; 1.5-2 cm long, 0.6-1 cm wide; light uniformly dull green; hairy outside. Petals 3-4 cm long, 0.5-0.7 cm wide at the base; spreading, more or less horizontal; cuneate, narrowing from broad base to elongate, acuminate apex; background light green to pinkish-green, brightly deep green toward base, dull purple-violet to the apex; with 7-9 dark purple-violet longitudinal stripes along nerves; long white ciliate along irregularly slightly undulate margin; petal base with dense tuft of long dark violet papillae at lower margin faced to lip entrance. Lip slipper-sac-like; 2-2.5 cm long, 0.8-1.4 cm wide, light dull green, with light brownish-purple tint on smooth and glossy incurved side lobes; inside at the base densely haired with long white glassy papillae, dark violet at apex. Column short and broad, 3-4 mm long, brightly green. Stamens with elongate acute filament apices; filaments green; anther spherical, yellow to orange. Stigma light greenish-white. Staminode large, 1.2-1.6 cm long, 0.6-0.8 cm wide; entire, glossy, broadly ovate to ovate-elliptic, flat, hardly indistinctly emarginate and grooved at apex; white to light greenish, with irregular washy yellowish-green or greenish veins. Pedicel and ovary 2-3 cm long, dark green, densely pubescent with dirty olive-violet hairs. Fruit dry narrowly ellipsoid, ribbed, shortly beaked capsule about 2 cm long and 4-5 mm in diameter.

Flower of Paph. canhii type specimen and  dorsal view of flower.
Photo by Loc Phan Ke

Distribution locally endemic to northern Vietnam.

Ecology Mixed coniferous and broad-leaved primary forests on rocky limestone at elevations about 4,920 feet (1,500 m) above sea level. In shady places at the base of vertical limestone cliffs on deep soilsrich in humus near tops of ridges.

Flowering March and April (in cultivation).

Etymology Named for Mr. Canh Chu Xuan, who discovered the plant.

Few plants of new species were collected in 2009 in northern Vietnam. This species occurs as an endogenous element of primary coniferous, mixed and broad-leaved endemic forests covering tops of remnant table- or mesa-like hills and mountains composed of highly eroded marble like rocky limestone. A lone population was found in a shady place at the base of a vertical cliff near the mountaintop at an elevation about 4,920 feet (1,500 m) above sea level. Plants were collected and flowered in the nursery a few months later. The unusual nature of these plants was revealed in that the flowers did not fit with any known species of the genus based on their color and morphology.
Highly Prized Paphiopedilum Species

Paphiopedilum armeniacum S.C. Chen & F.Y. Liu
Paphiopedilum barbigerum Tang & F.T. Wang
   var. barbigerum
   var. aspersum (Aver.) Aver.
   var. coccineum (Perner & R. Herrm.) W. Cavestro
Paphiopedilum delenatii guillaum.
Paphiopedilum dianthum Tang & F.T. Wang
Paphiopedilum emersonii Koop. & P.J. Cribb
Paphiopedilum gratrixianum var. daoense Aver.
Paphiopedilum hangianum Perner & O. Gruss
Paphiopedilum helenae Aver.
Paphiopedilum henryanum braem
Paphiopedilum ×herrmannii F. Fuchs & H. Reisinger
Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum (Lindl. Ex Hook.) Stein
   var. chiwuanum (Tang & F.T. Wang) P.J. Cribb
   var. esquirolei (Schltr.) K. Karas. & K. Saito
Paphiopedilum malipoense S.C. Chen & Z.H. Tsi
   var. malipoense
   var. angustatum (Z.J. Liu & S.C. Chen) Z.J. liu et & S.C. Chen
   var. hiepii (aver.) P.J. Cribb
   var. jackii (H.S. Hua) Aver.
Paphiopedilum micranthum Tang & f.t. Wang
Paphiopedilum purpuratum (Lindl.) Stein
Paphiopedilum tigrinum Koop. et & N. Haseg.
Paphiopedilum tranlienianum O. Gruss & Perner
Paphiopedilum vietnamense O. Gruss & Perner
Paphiopedilum wardii Summerhayes
Paphiopedilum wenshanense Z.J. Liu & J. Yong Zhang

and some others (Averyanov 2008; Liu Zhong-Jian, Chen Sing-chi and Cribb 2009). - Leonid V. Averyanov, Olaf Gruss, Canh Chu Xuan, Loc Phan Ke, Dang Bui and Hiep Nguyen Tien.

Flowers of Paph. canhii type specimen, half-face view
Photo by Loc Phan Ke, digital correction of all photographs by Leonid V. Averyanov

staminode of Paph. canhii type specimen, half-face [8] and side view
Photo by Loc Phan Ke, digital correction of all photographs by Leonid V. Averyanov

According to the most modern taxonomic system for the genus Paphiopedilum, our plant may be provisionally placed into section Barbata (Kraenzl.) V.A. Albert & B. Pettersen (Cribb 1998; Averyanov et al. 2003). However, such sectional placement remains uncertain. The differences in the leaves, the staminode and also the lip, as well as the lack of warts on petals, separate this new species from the typical "Barbata-species." Further studies of this species may place it in a separate section having a transitional taxonomic position between section Barbata (subgenus Paphiopedilum) and section Parvisepalum Aver.& P.J. Cribb (subgenus Parvisepalum Karas. & Saito).

At first glance, the plant resembles a natural hybrid. However, the first study of details of its morphology already indicates that this plant does not fit with any possible hybrid morphology of any parental pairs of known species. The color and shape of the petals, lip and particularly the staminode are specific and characteristic; they distinctly segregate this plant as an obviously separateentity. Few doubts exist that in this case we have a new species of an isolated taxonomic entity that belongs to a group of local calcium-dependent limestone endemics of northern Vietnam.

Within the limits of this section, this newly discovered species may have some relation to Paphiopedilum callosum (Rchb. f.) Stein and Paphiopedilum purpuratum Pfitzer. However, this affinity is rather uncertain due to the different floral morphology. Ecological, environmental and climate conditions of Paph. canhii look quite similar to those that were described andpublishedearlierfor Paph. purpuratum (Averyanov et al. 2003).

It is important to emphasize that one of the most endangered types of plant communities supports the newly describedspecies. The primary forests on rocky limestone that are the habitat for the new species are presently under great threat.

As a result, Paph. canhii certainly has little chance of surviving in nature without urgent professional field studies, survey and assessment for effective responsible protection.


Averyanov, L.V. 2004. Dendrobium tuananhii Aver. Another interesting new orchid from Vietnam. Orchids. Mag. Amer. Orch. Soc. (73)2:134-136.
__.2005. Dendrobiumvietnamense - a new species from limestone mountains of north-western Vietnam. Journ. Orchideenfr. Jahr. 12, Heft 4, 4. Quartal:355-360 (bilingual, German and English).
__. 2007. New species of orchids from Vietnam. Taiwania 52(4):287-306.
__. 2009. Hayata glandulifera (orchidaceae) new ge-nus and Species from northern Vietnam. Taiwania 54(4):311-316.
__. 2008. The orchids of Vietnam. Illustrated survey. Part
1. Subfamilies apostasioideae, cypripedioideae and Spiranthoideae. Turczaninowia 11(1):5-168.
__, Phillip Cribb, Phan Ke Loc and Nguyen Tien Hiep. 2003. Slipper orchids of Vietnam: With an introduction to the flora of Vietnam. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Compass Press Limited.
Cribb, P.J. 1998. The Genus Paphiopedilum. Kota Kinabalu. Nat. Hist. Publ. (Borneo).
Liu, Zhong-Jian, Chen Sing-Chi and P.J. Cribb. 2009. 4. Paphiopedilum Pfitzer. Pp. 33-44. in WuZhenqyi, P. Raven. Flora of China. Vol. 25. Science Pressand Missouri Botanical Garden Press, Beijing and St. Louis.
Perner, H., and X.N. Dang. 2003. Dendrobium trantuanii, eine neue art der gattung aus Vietnam. Die Orchidee 54(2):220-224.
Schildhauer, Herbert, and W. Schraut. 2004. Dendrobium farinatum, ein neues Dendrobium der Sektion breviflores aus Vietnam. Journ. Orchideenfreund 11(4):374-378.


The authors thank Alexander Sennikov, PhD, for his kind correction of the Latin species’ diagnosis and Wesley Higgins, PhD, and Harold Koopowitz, PhD, for critiquing the manuscript.

- Leonid V. Averyanov, PhD, is a professor and a vice president of the Russian Botanical Society. He is coauthor of Slipper Orchids of Vietnam (with P. Cribb, P.K. Loc and N.T. Hiep). Komarov Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Science, Prof. Popov str., 2, St.-Petersburg, 197376, Russian Federation (e-mail av_leonid@mail.ru; av_leonid@yahoo.com).
- Olaf Gruss is a member of the editorial team for Die Orchidee. In der Au 48, D-83224 Grassau, Germany (e-mail a-o.gruss@t-online.de).
- Canh Chu Xuan, BA, is a natural resources governance field coordination officer. CARE International in Vietnam, 66 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Ha Noi; P101-92A2 Thanh Nhan street, Hai Ba Trung District, Ha Noi, Vietnam (e-mail cxcanh@gmail.com).
- Loc Phan Ke, PhD, is a professor at Hanoi University of Science of Vietnam National University, Hanoi. 334 Nguyen Trai, Thanh Xuan, Hanoi, Vietnam and the Center for Plant Conservation of Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations, Lac Long Quan Rd, Nghia Do, Cau Giay, Ha Noi, Vietnam (e-mail pkeloc@yahoo.com).
- Dang Bui 1485 Garcia Place, Placentia, California 92870 (e-mail dangbui1485@yahoo.com).
- Hiep Nguyen Tien is director of the Center for Plant Conservation, Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations. Lac Long Quan Rd, Nghia Do, Cau Giay, Ha Noi, Vietnam (e-mail ntienhiep@hn.vnn.vn).

This article is only a proof of identification of a new species. The official one will be published in AOS. magazine in May 2010.

By Leonid V. Averyanov, Olaf Gruss, Canh Chu Xuan, Loc Phan Ke, Dang Bui and Hiep Nguyen Tien 

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