What are the differences between Cyps, Paphs and Phrags?

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Kevin

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I have been stumped by this question - what are the differences between genera in the slipper orchid alliance, specifically Cyps, Paphs and Phrags? I can tell the difference by looking at them, but I can't tell you why they are different. How would you explain the differences to someone who is new to orchids (or even someone who isn't)? What are the main features of the flowers and plant that set them apart from each other?
 

Rick

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Cyps grow in cold places, Phrags grow in warm places in the Americas, and Paphs grow in warm places in Asia!:rollhappy::D:rollhappy:

Sorry...

Oops, one more, Mexipedium grows only in Mexico and is really small.:evil:
Don't forget the Selenepedium (also found in the Americas) They get huge (like 20' tall).

I believe Cyps are all deciduous. too. Without getting the books out I think Cyps have just 2 or so, usually fuzzy leaves that die back for the winter.

Given the lack of success in crossing phrags with paphs there must also be a significant genetic dissimilarity despite the similarity in appearence.
 

KyushuCalanthe

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Don't forget the Selenepedium (also found in the Americas) They get huge (like 20' tall).
So true, I forgot about them Rick!

I believe Cyps are all deciduous. too. Without getting the books out I think Cyps have just 2 or so, usually fuzzy leaves that die back for the winter.
Until we found out that C. subtropicum holds their leaves for at least two seasons! Cyps range around the boards in terms of number of leaves with as few as one for some species (Section Trigonopedia) and up to perhaps 20 or more in C. irapeanum in large specimens. Some Cyps have opposite leaves, most alternate, some are glaucous, some pubescent. Flowers can be held singly or in clusters or in extended spikes. Most species open all at once and some are sequential. And so on. The situation is too complex to generalize about. Forget flower structure....basically they have the same characteristics, but specialization is extreme. And all of this variation occurs just within this one genus with a total of less than 50 known species!

What are the differences between these genera? Too many to generalize about in my opinion. I'm sure though that someone will try!
 
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Kevin

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Okay, let's try this - if you had a Paph and a Phrag side-by-side, any species or hybrid of each, how would you explain why one is a Paph, and the other is a Phrag? For example, could Phrag caudatum (or whatever it is called today) be confused with some of the multi-floral Paphs in plant structure alone? How about flowers - when you have a Paph, Phrag and Cyp side-by-side, all in flower, how and why would you identify each, based on the flower alone? What are you looking at to make that decision? I've never been able to pin that one down.
 

parvi_17

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For one thing, the plant structure is totally different. Phrags have long, sword-shaped leaves, and Paphs have thicker, wider leaves that are held closer to the ground. Granted, there are mottled and non-mottled Paphs, but these leaves are still more similar to each other than they are to Phrag leaves (or for that matter, to Cyp and Selen leaves). Paph and Phrag (and Mexi) leaves are conduplicate, and Cyp and Selen leaves are plicate.

The ovaries are a huge part of the classification of slippers. Paph ovaries are unilocular, Phrag ovaries are trilocular, Mexi ovaries are unilocular (in the centre) and trilocular (in the ends), Cyp ovaries are trilocular, and Selen ovaries are unilocular.
 
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Kevin

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I am very familiar with the plant structures of these plants, and that part seems pretty straight forward. Phrags mostly have grass-like foliage, and Paphs never do. Cyps are thin-leaved, since they are deciduous. I am mostly wondering about the flowers. I never look at the ovaries to determine a type of slipper orchid. Btw, what is unilocular anyway, and how would this help a beginner? There has to be a straight-forward way of telling the difference between the genera by looking at the flower. I can tell, but I just can't explain it. I have the same problem with Cattleyas and Laelias too, so maybe it's just me.
 

parvi_17

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The terms unilocular and trilocular refer to the number of loculi (chambers) in the ovary. You have to dissect the ovary to see this. Therefore, I wouldn't call it a "beginners" way to tell the difference.

The ovary structure is the only real way that I know of to tell the differences. If you look at Paph flowers from the various sections, a person might assume that they all belong to separate genera because they look so different. But, they all have unilocular ovaries and conduplicate leaves, and molecular analysis further provides evidence that they are closely related enough to be in the same genus.

The reason why you are able to tell the difference right off the bat is that you have been looking at these flowers for so long and you know what they are. Your brain automatically makes the connection when you see them. This is just a theory of mine though, because the ovaries and the leaves are the only ways I know of to tell them apart physically.
 

parvi_17

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To kind of expand on what I said...

Look at Paphs - you might say that they have waxy flowers. But, there's always the Parvis, which do not have waxy flowers. You might say they are single-flowered. But there are plenty of exceptions to that, as well. What do they all have in common? Unilocular ovaries and conduplicate leaves.

Look at Phrags - you might say they have softer-textured flowers (looking at the Micropetalums and all of those besseae hybrids). But, I wouldn't call caudatum soft-textured, and its long petals set it apart from others as well. Species from Lorifolia, Himantopetalum, etc. are quite different from both section Phrag. and section Micropetalum. What do all these have in common? Trilocular ovaries and conduplicate leaves.

Look at Mexi - this is a true weirdo because the ovary is both unilocular and trilocular. Clearly unique. But you can tell that just by looking at the leaves, which are conduplicate, but very succulent, unlike any other slipper.

Look at Cyps - you could say their flowers are soft-textured and brightly colored. But look at section Trigonopedia! Totally different right? This is a very diverse genus. But what do all of the species have in common? Trilocular ovaries and plicate leaves.

Selens look very similar to Cyps. Plicate leaves, the flowers are similar...but they have one big difference - unilocular ovaries. Selens were probably the first slippers to evolve (they are more primitive forms of Cyps).
 

smartie2000

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Look at Mexi - this is a true weirdo because the ovary is both unilocular and trilocular. Clearly unique. But you can tell that just by looking at the leaves, which are conduplicate, but very succulent, unlike any other slipper.
I thought Mexipedium was unilocular.

I've never heard of a ovary that is both unilocular and trilocular. I am assuming that it depends on the cross section?

...I need to bloom my plant to find out
 

parvi_17

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I thought Mexipedium was unilocular.

I've never heard of a ovary that is both unilocular and trilocular. I am assuming that it depends on the cross section?

...I need to bloom my plant to find out
Mexi ovaries are unilocular in the center, and trilocular in the ends.
 

Yoyo_Jo

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Kevin - it isn't just you....

When I first starting growing orchids three years ago, I often confused multi-floral paphs and phrags. I don't now, but as a total beginner, the flowers looked very similar to me.

Not any more though. :D
 

parvi_17

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Multifloral Paphs and Phrags do look very similar, especially if you ignore the foliage.

Big differences are found in the staminodes, and, of course, the ovaries. But to someone who doesn't pay attention to this and has not yet seen the plants tons of times and has the names drilled into their head, definitely they would look pretty much the same.

So I guess the point I'm trying to make is that there is no really simple way to tell the differences between them - they're that similar. You have to get down to the nitty-gritty to see why they are different (ignoring the plant structure of course). The reason for this is that within the individual genera there is so much variation that it actually makes it difficult to tell the genera apart if you're not familiar with them (and if you don't examine stuff like the ovaries). I don't know if that makes any sense or not.
 

smartie2000

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Joe has outlined everything up above BTW, at least to what I can think of.
botany all over again!

The plesiomorphic characters of subfamily Cypripedioideae include elongate stems, trilocular, and many plicate pubescent leaves. This makes Selenipedium the most basal of the group.

From the Selenipedium evolve the ancestors of Cypripediums. Cypriediums generally have shorter leaf internodes than the Seledipedium. Cypripediums are unilocular, another step in evolution. The most derived Cypripediums have reduced stems and few leaves, such as Cyp. acaule. (I bet something like cypripedium lentiginosum are the most derived of the cyps.)

As the Slipper species become more derived they inherit conduplicate foliage and reduced stems. These synapomorphies are seen in Paph and Phrags. These two genera are closely related, which is why the traits are similar. Their ancestor likely separated and evolved as they became geographically isolated.
Phrags probably have a reversal in locule characteristics and therefore are trilocular. The paphs remain unilocular, a trait from the Cypripediums.
And mexipedium evolved from the ancestors of today's Phragmipedium somewhere along the line (Either it retained the unilocule from the Cypripediums, or its another reversal into a unilocular carpel in progress? We don't know the ancestor of the Mexipedium and Phragmipediums, who are sister to one another).

Aren't Paph chromosome sizes much larger than Phrag as well.

...I hate it when someone labels a photo of some hybrid of paph philippinense as Phrag caudatum. I have seen that a few times!:eek:
 

parvi_17

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I hate to disagree with you Fren, but a couple of the things you said conflict with my sources.

Cribb (1997) and Koopowitz (2008) both state that Cyps are trilocular. Koopowitz (2008) also states that Selenipedium is unilocular. However, this does conflict with Cribb's (1998) statement that they are trilocular. I don't know who is right, and I have never looked at a cross-section of a Selenipedium ovary. Because Cribb presents evidence that the trilocular ovary is a plesiomorphic character, I am inclined to believe that Selenipedium is trilocular.

I do agree with your statement that the most derived Cyps have "reduced stems and few leaves". The section Trigonopedia was the last group to evolve in the genus.

On cytology, I have some information around here somewhere - I'll look for it.
 

parvi_17

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Okay so I really quickly flipped through one of my books and it doesn't look like Paph chromosomes are really that much bigger than Phrags, but it does vary. However, I am really tired and probably don't even know what I'm looking at. I think I'll go to bed now! I'll have a more detailed look at this tomorrow, because now you've got me curious.
 

kentuckiense

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Koopowitz (2008) also states that Selenipedium is unilocular
Ugh. Koopowitz (2008) has numerous errors. I'm embarrassed for Koopowitz when I read it. How did he let that happen?

Anyway, Cribb is correct. Selenipedium have trilocular ovaries.
 

smartie2000

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My memory got fuzzy...I did not look up sources.

But I am googling and different sources state different locule numbers for cypripediums, but the majority say trilocular. I do have Harold Koopowitz "Tropical Slipper Orchids" from the library and it says Cyps are unilocular, but that is not a scientific source.
You are probably right. If cyps are trilocular that makes a portion of what I typed up above is reversed about locule evolution thoughts....

I am fairly sure that Selenipedium have trilocular ovaries.

I am nuts thinking about ovary locules at 12:30am! :rollhappy:

oh yeah...the subtending floral bract of these genera are all very different!
The subtending floral bracts of paphs are usually are not as similar to the leaves when compared to other slippers. While the other slippers have bracts that look like smaller leaves. Mexipedium has almost no floral bract.
 
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