The distribution of Paphiopedilum delenatii

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Jun 7, 2006
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Richmond, VA
I keep hearing about "old Chinese strains" and "new Vietnamese strains" and I don't know what to make of it. I was under the impression that all of the old collections were from southern Vietnam (Averyanov, p. 91). I've heard of recent collections in the Yunnan province of China. Stephen's site only lists the SE Vietnam population. Any ideas?


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Jun 9, 2006
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Leiper's Fork, TN
This should be interesting. I'm about as informed as you so I've just assumed south Vietnam also.

Also since its so similar to vietnamense I would think that would cause allot of confusion for both pollinators and taxonomists if it was found in N Vietnam and S China.


I too am about as knowledgable as you two on the new distribution... =)

The Province of YunNan is near the North Viet Nam border, where Paph. vietnamense and the new colonies of Paph. delenatii are found. Personally, I would imagine that there would be some stragglers of Paph. vietnamense and Paph. delenatii crossing into the Province. Paph. hangianum are also found in the Province of YunNan, though they are mainly recorded to be found in North Viet Nam...

I would imagine that there is no morphological difference between the Paph. delenatii in North Viet Nam and the ones that MAY be found in the Province of YunNan, China...


Eric Muehlbauer

"Old" Chinese strains of delanatii? Could this simply be a misprint? Or a misinformed statement? I have never seen anything in print, or online, stating that delanatii was found in China....In fact, as I recall, in Cribb and Averyanov's book, they discuss the belief that delanatii is only native to southern Vietnam, and that early reprts of it in the north were really referring to vietnamense. Anyone have any more info on this? Take care, Eric


I might as well add the information that I've found:

From Cash 1991 (before rediscovery):

"Distribution: North Vietnam is the documented source of this species, although locations in the central portion of Vietnam have been reported as well as Yunnan Province, China"

From Cribb 1987 :

"... this species was introduced from an unspecified locality in North Vietnam (Tonkin) where it was discovered by a French army officer in 1913 or 1914. ... Poilane rediscovered it in 1922 near Nha Trang in Vietnam.

... All of the plants in cultivation are thought to derive from one of these few early introductions of plants into France. ...

Recent rumors suggest that it might also be found in south-west China."

From Averyanov et al. 2003:

"The discovery of Paphiopedilum delenatii was attributed to a French army officer who bought [sic] to France in 1913 or 1914 pink flowered Paphiopedilum specimens from an unknown locality of northern Vietnam. ... No undoubted herbarium documentation has yet been found for these plants. It is possible that this first report of a pink flowered-slipper orchid from northern Vietnam was based on Paphiopedilum vietnamense or P. micranthum, both discovered 85 years later. Anyway, the report of Paph delenatii by Guillaumin (1934) in northern Vietnam (Tonkin) is almost certainly mistaken.

Paphiopedilum delenatii was was certainly discovered by the French explorer Poilane in 1922 near Nha Trang city of southern Vietnam."

From Birk 2004 :

"Range: Tonkin(?) north Vietnam; recently in Nha Trang area, S. Vietnam"

None of that helps substantiate the presence of delenatii in China, and some calls into question it's presence in the north of Vietnam.

That said, it seems quite clear that the plants in cultivation prior to rediscovery in the early 1990s were of a slightly different character. This might be simply a result of human selection from a larger population. The newer plants seem to have darker pouches, while the blooms of many of the older ones seem to be mostly white with only a bit of a pink blush. I have also heard that the older ones tended to be more fragrant.... let me know if any of you can substantiate that.

Whether or not delenatii is found in China, though, it seems that calling the older strains Chinese is a mistake, as there is no evidence to suggest that they are Chinese in any of the accounts I've seen. I guess I'd better stop :)

As Ever,
Matthew Gore


Horse whisperer
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Jun 7, 2006
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I have never seen a reliable source mention China as the origin of Paph. delenatii. Before its rediscovery in the early '90s, it was thought to come from northern and [perhaps] southern Vietnam.

The reports of its origin in northern Vietnam are based upon the initial importation by M. Delenat of the species from 1913-1914. None of those plants lasted for very long in cultivation and I don't know if they ever flowered in cultivation (anyone?). These plants were probably Paph. vietnamense or maybe just an error (intentional or unintentional) in the reporting of their origin.

The species was again imported by M. Delenat in 1922, this time from Nha Trang in southern Vietnam. These definitely did bloom in cultivation and were the basis for the description by Guillaumin in 1924.

These plants generally did poorly in cultivation as well. I can't remember the source, so I'm not sure, but I think all but one of these died before any offspring were produced. [It may have been that a few survived] The lone survivor was selfed and became the origin of every Paph. delenatii in cultivation up until the species was rediscovered in Nha Trang in southern Vietnam in the early '90s.

This is the reason that pretty much every photo of delenatii up to the early '90s shows blooms that look very much alike. They all descend from a common progenitor. With the infusion of new genes from newly collected clones (none of which were legally collected or exported), 'better' and more variable blooms have been produced in the past 10 years.

One thing I am less sure of is that there are some legal new-strain delenatii in the US. I have heard that they were seized by FWS when someone tried to import them and eventually found their way to Antec (an official rescue-center), who bred them and sold some of the progeny. I can't say if there are other legal sources or not of new-strain delenatii.


Eric Muehlbauer

I have definitely found that the old line bred delanatii's are more fragrant than the newer strains. In fact, while these newer plants seem even easier to bloom than the old ones, I have only found one that was fragrant, and it was much fainter than the old types. However, I have heard from Dennis D'Allessandro that there are German bred strains of newer delanatii that have been specifically selected for fragrance. They are supposed to be pretty ordinary in appearance, but much more fragrant than usual. Take care, Eric

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