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Harold Koopowitz - Tropical Slipper Orchids
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Tropical Slipper Orchids is the title of a new book by Harold Koopowitz, the editor-in-chief of Orchid Digest. He's a renowned writer who has now illuminated these exotic flowers. There's a brilliant section on selecting a plant, done in question and answer format. He boldly gives you exact instructions for checking a nursery plant to see if it has an established root system. "Surreptitiously tug on a few of the larger leaves. Does the plant tend to lift out of the growing medium or does the pot want to lift up? If the roots are growing in firm medium, the entire plant and pot will tend to lift."

The amount of information per flower is amazing. This isn't a book for casual reading. You find out who bred what, when, where, and why. He does an excellent and thoughtful job of unraveling confusions when species have been misnamed in the past. It is, however, a great book for casual browsing. Tropical slipper orchids can be described as stunning, jaw-dropping, or even hypnotic. They are fascinating flowers that you never could have imagined without seeing them. They have a big cup-like thing in front that's the slipper, then two side petals which can be long tails (up to 26 inches, some of the longest in the plant world) dangle beside the cup. Lastly there are two large showy background petals that frame and define it. It's a very mysterious looking flower with bizarre patterns and coloration, almost like some of the wildest tropical fish you'd see when snorkeling.

One of the nicest things about tropical slipper orchids is that they aren't demanding. The ones in cultivation come from Southeast Asia (Paphiapedilum) or Central and South America (Phragmidedium). The book covers both species and hybrids and is organized by alliances. Recent discoveries of slipper orchids in the jungles of Peru are just now beginning to be available in hybrids and will bring new interest because of the flower size and colors --- raspberry, carmine, and a pure purple. Divisions of some tropical slipper orchids sell for up to $25,000.

There's a resource list at the end along with glossary, references, and two indexes --- one that's general and one for just the individual plant names. That last detail is very well conceived for the real usefulness of the book. I'm quite impressed with both the topic and the book!

Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, www.timberpress.com, 2008, 978-0-88192-864-8, 432 pages, color photographs and prints, hardback, $59.95
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