Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Phrag Fabulous

Phrag. Eumelia Arias
I'm thrilled with the first bloom from my Phrag. Eumelia Arias (kovachii x schlimii), originally featured in Cats and Catts on February 21 2010. I bought it from Hilltop Orchids -- you can buy one for yourself here. It was like Christmas morning when it opened, and I have no problem looking right past its flaws to admire its sparkling ruby color. It might sound a little psychotic, but this plant has occupied my thoughts for nearly two years. Here are a few reasons why:

Sabine w/ Phrag & its original container
 1. It's a high-maintenance plant and, therefore, it's extra gratifying to see in bloom. It's fussy. I drench it with reverse-osmosis water three or four times a week, and the plant receives other perks (dissolved epsom salts once a month and crushed oyster shells four times a year). The need to water it frequently leads me to catch pests and culture problems early. In fact, my tendency to over-water has been stunningly success with this plant. A wet Phragmipedium is a happy Phragmipedium.

2. One of Eumelia Arias's parent species, Phrag. kovachii, has a fascinating history. The 2001 discovery of Phrag. kovachii was monumental for the orchid community: the flowers had a deep purple color no one had seen before (opening up a new world of hybridization possibilities) and its flowers were huge. But the drive to be the first to import and describe the new species led to dodgy behavior. Its Western discoverer, Michael Kovach, faced thousands of dollars in fines for illegally smuggling the plant from Peru into the US. The late Eric Christenson was inches away from writing the first description of it, but Kovach and the Selby Botanical Garden bum rushed the taxon, and so now we call it Phrag. kovachii (instead of peruviana). Big discovery. Big controversy.

3. Finally, the flower is super gorgeous and it has a diamond dusting look that's inadequately captured in the photos. It's stare-worthy.

All in all, it's a highly satisfying orchid. I definitely see more Phrags in my future.

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