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Postings are excerpts from the exhibition catalog edited by Carol Woodin

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Slipper Orchid, Watercolor on Vellum by Carol Woodin, US

Paphiopedilum vietnamense

Listing: CITES Appendix I

The Plant’s Story:

For untold centuries in a remote area of northern Vietnam, this handsome slipper orchid graced a dramatic landscape of eroded crystalline cliffs and crevices. Undisturbed under a lush canopy of broad-leaved evergreen forest until its discovery in 1997, the attractive variegated plants were abundant in this setting, forming extensive colonies. Sadly the wild populations of this striking orchid were plundered within days of their discovery. Local people, dispatched by a commercial orchid company, collected mass quantities of this orchid and others for the horticultural trade. When CITES-listed plants, illegally imported into the country are seized by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors, they offer to repatriate them to the country of origin. When return of seized plants is not possible, they are sent to one of 62 participating institutions around the country in its Plant Rescue Center Program. The plants remain the property of the U.S. Government but the institutions are allowed to propogate them and the offspring become the property of that Center. The bittersweet result is that this slipper orchid has become plentiful and available everywhere people avidly grow orchids…but not in its natural habitat where only a sparse population can still be found. (Thomas Mirenda, Orchid Collection Specialist, Smithosonian Institution)

The Artist’s Story: Carol Woodin

Having specialized in orchids for almost 20 years, I’ve sought them out in habitats and greenhouses in North and South America. Studying orchids in the wild brings its special challenges, first and foremost is taking care not to damage the habitat and especially the plants. They are also difficult to find, and are often at a great distance from roads. Once found, enduring mosquitoes and black flies, muck, hot sun and rain are all part of the deal and over time I learned that the more drawing and painting done while out there, the better the results in the studio. Before Slipper Orchids of Vietnam was published in 2003, Dr. Phillip Cribb, one of its authors asked whether I might be able to paint Paphiopedilum vietnamense for the cover. That first painting was done from the scientific description and detailed digital photos. Painting plants from photos is very difficult. Over the ensuing years since the book’s publications, seed-grown plants have matured, so it was a great pleasure to finally paint this plant from life.

More of the plant’s story and the artist’s story can be found in the exhibit catalog, available at the exhibition venues or online from the ASBA.