Paphiopedilums and Phragmipedilums come from different parts of the world, but they are both commonly called Slipper Orchids. They both differ from other orchids in the formation of the large lip, which has become modified into a pouch that traps pollinating insects. When an insect such as a bee tumbles into the pouch, it crawls up via a ladder of small hairs at the back of the pouch, dislodging waxy clumps of pollen which adhere to its body and which the bee then carries to the next flower it visits.
The common name of Slipper Orchid comes from the Greek, describing the lip shaped like Venus’ slipper. Sixty-five species of Paphiopdilums are known to have originated from China to New Guinea. Although these are rare now, many hybrids have been produced. Twenty-six species of Phragmepediums are known from South America. Paphiopedilums tend to be smaller and lower growing, while Phragmipediums have large leaves and longer flower spikes. Some of both species tend to grow on forest leaves on forest floors or the lower branches of trees. Others grow on limestone outcrops or cling to sheer rock faces. They prefer fairly dry habitats that would not suit other orchids.