Cultivation of Cyprepedium Reginae through Hydroponic Systems

Friday, February 12, 2016
Samuel J. Seelig, New Hampshire Science Academy, Lyme, NH
Andrew Q. Kotz, New Hampshire Science Academy, Lyme, NH
Earth is in the middle of the sixth mass extinction, or the Holocene extinction. The Holocene is the first mass extinction to be caused by a single species... Humans. One family, Orchidaceae, also known as Orchids, can help us understand the present extinction event since they can be used as an indicator of early environmental decline. Orchids are extremely fine-tuned to their specific environments, and when their environment changes, they are often the first plant to decline. Crossroads Academy and Kimball Union Academy, in the upper Connecticut river valley of New England are intensively studying lady's slipper (Cyprepedium Reginae) orchids to build a model for endangered species conservation. At Crossroads, there are about 2,200 seedlings developing in sterile medium and about 400 seedlings being vernalized at 5° C. We have successfully transplanted and grown about 80 seedlings over the past three years to soil in an effort to create a model Cyprepedium Reginae sanctuary. We expect our first flowering orchids in the next year. In an effort to increase our efficiency when moving plants from sterile media to soil, we have tested a variety of hydroponic methods. Our first two methods using small pebbles and nutrient liquid medium administered by percolation through said rocks failed to grow any healthy seedlings. Last year we discovered that rock wool, a porous, fibrous material composed of stone, was the correct medium, as we tested it in a hydroponic system and the results showed that the hydroponics did indeed aid the growth of the Cypripedium Reginae, managing to grow the seedlings more than 1.5 times faster in height than when they are planted in soil. The plants gained on average 0.1-0.2 grams during their time in hydroponics. Adequate root development occurred during the three months that they were planted in hydroponics.  Last year, the orchids began to die off in the hydroponics. We know that they need to be transplanted into soil at a certain point. This year, our goal is to ascertain when the orchids should be transplanted into soil from hydroponics by moving them in batches to the outdoor soil.