Phrag. besseae

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'ChiliPepper' x 'Colossal'

very large plant (for a besseae) but flowers aren't huge, only 7.5-8 cm. in this heat the blooms are decidedly on the orange side and there's a little undesirable streaking on the lower halves of the petals. ah well.


The discovery of the brilliant Phrag. besseae in 1981 set off a flurry of phragmipedium hybridization that still continues unabated to this day. For much of the 20th century, a limited color palette and genetic incompatibility issues had all but shut down phrag breeding, and interest in the genus was perhaps at an all-time low. However, the combination of the shocking red-orange color of Phrag. besseae and the extraordinary chromosomal work by the late Don Wimber of the Eric Young Orchid Foundation resulted in a veritable explosion in phrag hybridization and popularity. Revolutionary first-generation hybrids such as Eric Young, Memoria Dick Clements, and Ruby Slippers paved the way for spectacular second-generation hybrids like Don Wimber and Jason Fischer, and these will be used in turn to generate still more advanced breeding lines. It is safe to say that phrags are now more popular than they have ever been, and that this is a truly exciting time to be a phrag phanatic!

Phrag. besseae is known as a somewhat temperamental species, although successive line-breeding has produced plants that are much easier to grow than the original imports. Plants are still prone to sending off stolons up to 4-6" in length, which virtually necessitate shallow pots or basket culture. Like the long-petalled phrags, besseae is prone to a basal rot in the heat of summer, and constant vigilance is required in order to catch this at an early stage. Phrag. besseae is exceptionally intolerant of fertilizer, and will show its dislike of a rich diet with spotted brown leaf tips that progressively die back. It does seem to appreciate sphagnum moss, however, and a combination of sphagnum and clay pots works well for many growers. Cooler temperatures seem to result in more intensely-red flowers, although the peak of the flowering season is typically during the spring and summer months.

Phrag. besseae and its close relative Phrag. dalessandroi are native to Peru and Ecuador. In addition to its typical red-orange color, Phrag. besseae also exists in a yellow form, as well as in various shades of peach and salmon. Phrag. dalessandroi is believed by most to represent a distinct species, and can be identified by its short rhizomes, downswept petals, and readily-branching inflorescences.

That is a beautiful one. I love the shape of the petals (though the dorsal, like all of the new OZ breeding, has that darned cupping.

I really wanted that cross because the ones I have seen have been really nice, and I really like eating chiles. :)

Your history and culture info is always fabulous. Thank you!!
Heather said:
Does anyone have any photos of 'Smokin' x 'Colossal'?
I'm working on (finally) updating my database and realized I don't have a photo of that cross.


Mine bloomed about 2 months ago. ('Smokin' x 'Colossal'):

Beautiful plant, and thank you for the information, it is really interesting.

I am very keen to start collecting some Phrags, but am still a bit worried about their culture
...another interesting thing to add to your Phrag. besseae history... the plants of Phrag. besseae were originally found growing as semi-lithopytes on the sides of cliffs... they were always thought to be some Begonia species in constant bloom (because Begonia usually bloom all throughout the year, so it made sense)... Calaway Dodson decided to go up to the cliff, and discovered that the plants of the supposed Begonias were actually a new species of red Phragmipedium... the first plant of the species was sent to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, just as the first plant of Epidendrum ilense did...

Unfortunately, I have been in the Selby Living Collection trying to locate the original plant, and I was told by the curator it died because of improper care...