The connection of orchids to BGI extends beyond them being mere garden species. In collaboration with five research institutions, BGI launched the Orchid Genome Project in July 2009. The project's goal is to perform genome-wide sequencing and bioinformatics analysis on Xiaolanyu Phalaenopsis, as well as transcriptome sequencing, to study gene expression in 10 representative orchids, including Apricot, Magnolia, and Cymbidium. This project aimed to construct an orchid genome map for these species, which provides insights into orchid ecology, the phenotypic diversity of orchids, their remarkable environmental adaptations, and the genetic and molecular basis for various evolutionary and metabolic patterns.
The Paphiopedilum Pacific Shamrock at the BGI Center.
Among the orchids, Paphiopedilum, known for its thick labella shaped like pouches that resemble slippers, have earned the nickname 'Slipper Orchids.' These plants are highly valued for their aesthetic appeal within the family Orchidaceae. The genus Paphiopedilum contains more than 100 species, including numerous varietal forms and 23 natural hybrids, primarily found from South China to Tropical Asia. It is evergreen and known for its glossy leaves, vibrant flower colors, large blooms, and long flowering period, making it highly prized for ornamentation. There is a substantial global community of Paphiopedilum enthusiasts, leading to the creation of numerous artificial horticultural hybrids. The Royal Horticultural Society in the UK has registered more than 24,000 horticultural varieties.
Due to their high commercial value and suitability for potting, Paphiopedilum plants have been overharvested in the past. This, combined with environmental degradation, has made orchids some of the most endangered plant species. Almost all orchid species are listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which controls their international trade through a permit system. This underscores the value of BGI's efforts in promoting the understanding and protection of orchids.
Currently, the Paphiopedilum Pacific Shamrock is blooming at the BGI Center. It features wide, round flowers with a substantial texture, showcasing deep red, white, yellow-green, spotted, and orange-yellow stripes. This variety is cold-resistant, boasts a prolonged flowering period, and produces very few seeds, making it a significant commercial plant variety, especially during the cold and damp winters in South China.
As the season cycles back to its colder, quieter days, the orchids at the BGI Center stand in vibrant contrast, reminding visitors of the enduring beauty and complexity of nature. These blooms are not just feasts for the eyes but symbols of harmony between conservation and scientific discovery.
American Orchid Society – Paphiopedilum:
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – Paphiopedilum:
BGI Group - Orchid Genome Project:
BGI Group - Protecting the Endangered Orchid Plant Through Cutting-Edge Genomics:
Shanghai Botanical Garden - The Genus Paphiopedilum: