The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens was awarded Plant Collections Network accreditation for its Barbara Tisherman Slipper Orchid Collection in 2014. The collection includes 503 species, historically significant hybrids, and cultivars of the Cypripedioideae orchid subfamily.
LEED certified production and display greenhouses provide a suitable environment for largely tropical orchids, while diminutive varieties requiring more exacting conditions are housed in a Conviron growth chamber. Phipps worked with slipper orchid specialists to determine the most historically significant hybrids to interpret the 140-year history of orchid breeding from species through today’s complex hybrids.
The Orchid Society of Western Pennsylvania (OSWP) has been instrumental in developing and maintaining this collection. They go far beyond volunteering in the orchid greenhouses through a program they call fun at Phipps, or Pfun, but have evolved a separate branch of the organization dedicated to growing the orchid collections they call P-OSI (Phipps Orchid Society Initiative). OSWP has developed and conducted surveys identifying valuable slippers to be added, found and been in contact with breeders, vendors, and enthusiasts in search of these orchids, and have donated plants in addition to their time in pursuit of this goal. Members of this group continue to push us forward and are currently developing a survey for a Cypripedium spp. wish list. The Phipps Conservatory hopes to expand its holdings and become a destination for enthusiasts who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to see such a wealth of members of the slipper group side by side.