Genus Paphiopedilum

Paphiopedilum Pfitzer,
Morph. Stud. Orchideenbl. (1886) 11

Sympodial terrestrial or less often epiphytic plants without or with distinct rhizomes. Roots very thick and hairy, unbranched. Stem very short. Leaves few, sheathing at the base, arranged in two rows, glabrous, persistent, duplicate, often mottled, leathery. Inflorescence terminal, a few- to many-flowered raceme or carrying a single flower. Flowers large to very large, resupinate, sometimes opening in succession. Lateral sepals connate. Petals free, very different from the sepals. Lip without spur, not mobile, slipper-shaped. Column curved downwards into the opening of the lip, at the base with a shield-like appendage (staminode); column-foot absent. Fertile anthers 2, pollen not aggregated into pollinia, gel-like, sticky.

India, tropical East Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands. About 70 species; in New Guinea 4 species.

Terrestrial in lowland and montane forest, often on steep limestone cliffs. Also epiphytic on tall trees in hill forest.

The genus Paphiopedilum is not very diverse in New Guinea, with only four species belonging to two sections. Section Barbata, with 1-flowered inflorescences, relatively short and broad petals and marbled leaves, is represented by Paphiopedilum papuanum and Paphiopedilum violascens; section Coryopedilum, with multi-flowered inflorescences, long, narrow petals and unmarked leaves, is represented by Paphiopedilum glanduliferum and Paphiopedilum wilhelminae. The name of the last-mentioned species is consistently misspelled as Paphiopedilum wilhelminiae. Within each of the two sections the species are very closely related and variable, as a result there is still some controversy about the number of taxa and the taxonomic rank of the taxa occurring in New Guinea.
Members of this genus are popularly known as slipper orchids. They are highly sought after by collectors and even in New Guinea they are not safe from overcollecting, especially as populations tend to be small and far apart. Fortunately they are relatively easy to grow and long-lived, so their existence in cultivation seems safe.