Paphiopedilum tonsum – 365 days of orchids – day 1229

We find Paphiopedilum tonsum our most reliable and accommodating paphiopedilum species.

This species which is native to North and Central Sumatra where it is found from 1000-1800m altitude as a terrestrial in deep humus and deep shade.

We have found that the species really resents bright light and so we keep it well shaded all year. We provide shade both with additional shading net and the natural shade from large plants (especially Trichotosia ferox) that grow above it.

In these conditions the attractive leaves flourish and flowers are produces on long vertical stems giving it a very stately presence. Plants flower throughout the spring and early summer with large plants flowering over a long period. As we mentioned in a previous post the likely pollinator is a wasp that will be temporarily trapped in the pouch before climbing to freedom up a ‘ladder’ of hairs at the back of the pouch, pushing past the stigmatic surface and emerging with the sticky pollen attached and ready to pass to the next flower it visits.

When we see our paphs flower we always remember the excitement of finding Paphiopedilum sanderianum flowering in Sarawak. As you can see from the photograph we took in October the plant grows on shaded vertical limestone cliffs.

Paphiopedilum sanderianum is unique for its remarkable 1m long spiralled petals and our photograph shows them beautifully against the dark cliff behind. It also shows that the flower spike grow horizontally to present the flowers to its pollinator (The cultivated plants I have seen have always had the spikes trained vertically up canes which loses the exquisite beauty of the flowers) I have heard it suggested that the long petals are to allow a pollinator to crawl up the flowers from the ground but as you can see the petals hang in mid air on the vertical cliff which blows that theory). The petals however make the flowers much more visible from a distance and that would seem the more likely evolutionary advantage.


Join the Discussion


  1. Agnes Jones says:

    I was not so keen on this orchid in real life but what beautiful photography. You have made this orchid look quite magical.