The Strange Saga of Cypripedium Rascal

- an original article by Carson E. Whitlow*

We always enjoy the visitors coming out in the spring to see the Cyp's, but if they schedule it for late in the blooming season, it holds up my breeding. I always remove the pouch from the flower when I pollinate, which certainly detracts from their appearance. It was in this setting that Cypripedium Rascal got its start.

The spring of 1985 was not much different than the previous ones, except the many visitors decided to come out a little later in the season. Fortunately for them, the bed of Cyp. kentuckiense was in nice full bloom, with their egg sized pouches and maroon lined green sepals and petals reaching as much as six inches in length making a magnificent display. The bed of Cyp. parviflorum, a few feet away, had reached its peak a couple of weeks earlier and was going downhill quickly. The Cyp. reginae bed, up the hill a ways, was also in full bloom with the lovely white flowers with pink frosted lip making another fine display. Cypripedium pubescens in still another bed were also winding down, past there peak. But, all in all, the visitors enjoyed the sights and took many pictures.

Finally, I could complete my breeding! Several hybrids were scheduled for the various clones of Cyp. kentuckiense and Cyp. reginae. I had stored pollen of Cyp. formosanum especially for these two parents. Now to get it done!

The pods were removed a few months later and the seed flasked. None of the Cyp. reginae by Cyp. formosanum germinated, and only a few of the cross with Cyp. kentuckiense began to grow. After the first few months, these seedlings were reflasked and continued on.

Over the next few years, the plants grew in strength, but also fell subject to the many dangers in growing up. Finally, only one was left. It had exhibited growth much like the Cyp. kentuckiense, though on a smaller scale. Cypripedium formosanum had shown some influence in the leaves when crossing with Cyp. acaule, but a definite lack of dominance. Therefore, the seedlings leaves being quite typical of the Cyp. calceolus - Cyp. macranthum group did not cause any undue suspicion.

However, in May of 1990, when this plant bloomed, there was little question that the pollen parent was NOT Cyp. formosanum! The sepals and petals were a dark solid maroon, the petals straight but tightly twisted, held at an angle downward and shorter than those of Cyp. kentuckiense. The pouch, though a nice yellow which could be within the color range of Cyp. kentuckiense, had a more moccasin-like shape. The flower was smaller in size than Cyp. kentuckiense, more like a medium sized Cyp. pubescens. Puzzling over this, I remembered the late visitors and the nearness of the Cyp. parviflorum bed. There was really little question what had happened - natures little pollinators has gotten to the flower before me, after visiting the nearby Cyp. parviflorum bed. So, it would only be appropriate to name it Rascal, which I did. Sadly, we had a very wet summer that year and before I realized what had happened, the little rascal had been drowned out.

The hybrid has been remade, this time with the parentage very certain. It will be a few years yet, but we look forward to seeing more of this very lovely and worthwhile hybrid.

* CYP. HAVEN, 22957 - 280th St., Adel, IA 50003-4491

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