Cypripedium Meristem Mass Propagation

Period of Performance: 01/01/2010 - 12/31/2010


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Morris, CT 06763
Principal Investigator
Firm POC


Cypripedium is a genus of temperate terrestrial ladyslipper orchids of excellent garden size, forming clumps or 12 - 18 inches in diameter or more, with very showy flowers. Many species are easy to grow in northern gardens (USDA zones 2-7) and have excellent horticultural potential. Today, several nurseries grow a few species and hybrids from seed, although a number of garden-worthy species have not yielded to propagation by seed germination. Several exceptionally garden-worthy hybrids have been developed, but as with the hybrids of many orchids and other flowering plants, vigor and flower appearance varies from specimen to specimen. At present no method of vegetative mass production of superior cultivars is available for Cypripedium. The goals of this research are 1) further optimization of methodology to rapidly induce plantlet formation from callus derived from a wide range of horticulturally superior cypripedium hybrids, and 2) development of grow-out methodology that results in the survival of a large percentage of plantlets into flowering plants within four years from deflasking. Success in this program will allow large scale production of cypripedium cultivars for provision of superior cultivars to the floricultural market. Orchid production is valued at $140 million wholesale in the U.S. Unlike tropical orchids, which are optimally produced in southeast Asia, cypripedium are optimally produced in the northern U.S. While many floriculturally important orchids including the Cattleya alliance, Cymbidium, and Phalaenopsis are mass produced using in vitro micropropagation techniques, ladyslipper orchids have thus far not yielded to micropropagation using commercially relevant methodology. Unlike the seed of many epiphytic orchids, seed of terrestrial orchids is difficult to germinate due to the introduction during seed maturation of growth inhibitory factors that enable seed to survive the harsh weather conditions of winter. Only beginning in the 1980s has germination from seed of some species of cypripedium become routinely practiceable, and the first generally successful protocols for seed germination and maturation of seedlings appeared in the mid-1990s. Indeed, while hybrids of many orchid genera have been registered since the mid-1800s, the cypripedium hybrid was registered in 1991. The availability of uniform, vegetatively mass-produced offspring of commercially important orchids such as Cattleya, Cymbidium and Phalaenopsis dramatically transformed the worldwide markets for hybrids of those species. The market for orchids in the U.S. has been rapidly growing, from $47 million at the wholesale level in 1995 to $144 million in 2005. Virtually all of these orchids are produced using vegetative micropropagation. Today, most mass production of these tropical species occurs outside the U.S., particularly in southeast Asia where the climate dramatically reduces production costs. In contrast, Cypripedium grow in temperate climates and require prolonged freezing conditions during the winter. This makes many regions of the U.S. particularly attractive regions in which to establish commercial production.