This lovely orchid has been in our collection since the beginning of the project in the the early 1990s and appears as an old friend each spring. Paphiopedilum insigne was a very common orchid when I began growing orchids in the 1970s but this was fuelled by mass imports of plants from their wild habitat in India and China, and sadly, this now endangered species is still suffering from ruthless collection for regional and international trade. I would recommend reading the Red Listing research by Rankou, H. & Kumar, P. 2015 which details the dramatic reduction the species has suffered in recent decades.
The species is found as a terrestrial in China (Yunnan) and India (Meghalaya) – and appears extinct from previous sites in Bangladesh, Thailand and Myanmar. The species grows on limestone in Meghalaya (famed for its wet climate) at altitudes from 1000-2000m and is reported to be found near waterfalls. Not surprisingly the species enjoys being grown cool and wet in cultivation.
We were fortunate to see Paphiopedilum sanderianum flowering on its cliff habitat in Sarawak in 2019 (below) which redoubled our resolve to continue to work to support conservation of this threatened genus. We will be setting seed on our lovely Paphiopedilum insigne later today to help ensure that there are plenty of laboratory raised plants available to take the pressure off wild plants populations.
Paphiopedilums are easy to raise from seed – we have some lovely seedlings in-vitro and deflasked – and I would recommend that all orchid growers do all they can to buy seed raised plants and not inadvertently support wild collection. (wild collected plants of Paphiopedilum callosum we have seen for sale in Laos below)