The hybrid, Paphiopedilum M.S.Valiathan, is the first of the genus registered in India; Paphiopedilums are popularly known as Lady’s Slipper orchids.

When researchers at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) decided to honour eminent cardiologist and veteran scientist M.S. Valiathan, they hit upon a novel idea.

The Orchid Biology team at JNTBGRI developed a hybrid species of orchid and named it after Prof. Valiathan who had been instrumental in launching the orchid breeding programme at JNTBGRI during his tenure as Executive Vice-President, Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE).

The hybrid, Paphiopedilum M.S.Valiathan, is the first of the genus registered in India. Paphiopedilums are popularly known as Lady’s Slipper orchids. Paphiopedilum druryi, the only lady’s slipper orchid of peninsular India endemic to Agasthyamala, is the female parent of the new hybrid, while the male parent is the Thai species named Paphiopedilum exul.

According to C. Sathish kumar, who heads the Orchid Biology team, Paphiopedilum M.S. Valiathan is a robust hybrid flowering during November to March and reminiscent of both the parents. A single flower will remain fresh for more than a month. It has a golden yellow colour with median brown bands as in the female parent, but the white dorsal sepal (the outermost whorl of a flower) with black spot and a large synsepal ( a floral structure formed by the fusion of sepals) are derived from the male parent.

“We have named the hybrid after Dr.Valiathan, as a mark of respect and gratitude to him,” Dr. Sathish said. Prof. Valiathan is scheduled to receive his namesake orchid in bloom from JNTBGRI when he arrives to deliver the 10 Prof. A.Abraham centenary lecture at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology here on Saturday morning.

The Orchid Biology team at JNTBGRI has taken up a series of studies on Indian orchids under programmes financed by various national and State funding agencies. Together with the collection and conservation of orchid germplasm at its campus at Palode, the team has also been involved in breeding and hybrid development utilizing Indian and foreign orchid resources available at the garden.

Of the 15 new orchid hybrids developed by Dr. Sathish and his team, eight have already received recognition from the Royal Horticultural Society, London.