Known for its diversity and currently home to more than 1,800 plants, the collection is well-known as one of the finest of its type. After undergoing many changes, it continues to emphasize conservation and education by maintaining more than 240 genera, represented by more than 1,100 different species and in excess of 700 hybrid orchids.
While orchid diversity and adaptations are amazing, it is the very nature of their habitats that has provided for their diversity. Orchids grow in specialized habitats: rainforests, treetops, stream banks, cliffs, rocky meadows, woodlands and wetlands.
Orchids and their pollinators are represented in nearly every habitat type on earth. It is the loss of those habitats that is threatening the future of orchids and other plants worldwide. Collectors have been known to overcollect a particular species, thus extirpating it from the wild. Even our native terrestrial species are threatened by habitat loss, primarily from agriculture and urban development.
Collections such as ours serve as a genetic repository for species orchids to aid in their survival.
Through research, we strive to help with orchid conservation; and seed propagation of uncommon species is part of this effort. Here is a sampling of our collection of 1800 orchids. You can also view digital images of plants included in the Charles Bracker donation.
In mid-November 2009, the rare and unusual Bucket Orchid bloomed for the first time in the orchid greenhouse. Flowers are short-lived, but this news brought over 150 visitors from across Indiana. The bizarre bloom attracts male Euglossine bees that fall into the liquid-filled "bucket" of the flower. Upon exiting, pollen attaches to the bee and is carried to another flower. Bucket orchids are found in Central and South America, in ant nests and are rare in cultivation.
Cattleya x Portia variety coerulea ‘Lakewood’
Cattleya Portia, or Porcia? They are not the same thing with two
different spellings. Here the mystery is solved. Both are old hybrids made with
Guarianthe (formerly Cattleya)
bowringiana, with the especially notable coerulea form. Cattlianthe
(formerly Cattleya) Portia is an autumn-flowering, large-flowered hybrid
from G. bowringiana x Cattleya
labiata. Cattlianthe (formerly Cattleya) Porcia v. Cannizano, is a
large autumn-flowering cross from G. bowringiana x Cattleya Armstrongiae (Hardyana x
loddigesii). Both C. Portia and C. Porcia are
intermediate in size between their parents. They are beautifully colored,
vigorous growers with tall heads of flowers and they make an impressive
display. They are considered by many Cattleya experts to be among the
finest and most spectacular Cattleya
hybrids ever bred. Cattleya Portia was registered by James
Veitch & Son in 1897 and C. Porcia by H.G. Alexander in 1927.
Cypripedium calceolus var. parviflorum
"Small yellow lady's slipper." A faithful bloomer in mid-May, this orchid is native to Indiana and northern regions. It is historically found in open wetlands such as fens. These areas are very rare in Indiana due to agriculture and industrialization.
The flower on this plant can be seen in the upper left with a seed pod developing in the lower left. Unpollinated older flowers or ovaries can be seen in the center of the cluster.
Paphiopedilum armeniacum, "golden slipper"
As a plant rescue center, the Wheeler Collection periodically takes in plants that have been seized by USDA Customs. In 1992, we received a lady's-slipper orchid from China. Lady's-slippers are endangered and have very tight importation restrictions. They are notoriously slow growers and notably difficult to bloom. This image captured the first-time blooming of Paphiopedilum armeniacum in the collection on March 12, 2002.
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