Paphiopedilum appletonianum is a personal favorite in my collection. I know I say this every year, but everytime it blooms I feel this way so it must be true then. Not only do I like that the flowers last for several months I also adore the color combination and the purple-brown, lightly hairy and ridiculously long inflorescence often measuring up to half a meter long! The lovely light mottled leaves add some extra appeal even when the plant is not in bloom. Flowers measure about 10 cm wide and tend to mature late fall for me while in nature peak flowering time is in the spring. And as with all Paphiopedilum I am just as fascinated with the flowers seen from the front as the profile but most of all the very sensual back… mmm good stuff!
It is a medium sized species from Southeast Asia where it grows at elevations from 700 – 2000 meters. It has been found as both terrestrial and lithophytic as well as the occasional humus epiphyte in nature so it seems not particularly fuzzy about growing medium. I grow mine in a mixture of medium bark and small leca, medium bright and in intermediate temperatures. I keep it fairly evenly wet all year, only a bit more so during the warmer part of the year.
Paphiopedilum appletonianum is one of the most variable species in the genus with primarily an extremely variable staminode. Since staminodes can be a critical characteristic for differentiating between species, particularly within the Paphiopedilum genus, this has led to some confusion and probably some questionable variants over the years. I have experienced this variability to some degree myself. This is actually my second plant, my original one passed on last winter when the greenhouse froze. This being a favorite species it was naturally one of the first plats I replaced. Even though I miss my huge old plant, this new plant is actually producing a better looking flower than the old one I think. So not all change is bad. In time this will too grow to be huge and amazing no doubt.
Paphiopedilum appletonianum (Gower) Rolfe, Orchid Rev. 4: 364 (1896).