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Phragmipedium peruvianum syn. kovachii

This is a discussion on Phragmipedium peruvianum syn. kovachii within the The Outback Terrace Bar forums, part of the Land Plants category; So, coming soon, or that is at least the latest word on the net from ...

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  1. #1
    ATester's Avatar
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    Default Phragmipedium peruvianum syn. kovachii

    So, coming soon, or that is at least the latest word on the net from the only TWO growers in the US allowed to sell them, the very controversial Phragmipedium kovachii...I mean Phrag peruvianum...wait...lets back this train up and get caught up on this story (for those who don't know) and talk a little about this awesome and very controversial plant. I am not professing to be an expert on what exactly happened concerning this gem of a plant, so if there are a few folks who know more about it chime in.

    This is really the story of two men...Dr. Eric Christenson and Mike Kovach, and the orchid that got tangled up between them. Whilst travelling through Peru in 2001 or so, Kovach spotted at a roadside stand a rather large phragmipedium that neither he, nor anyone else, had seen...or so the story goes, and had yet to be identified. He later brought one back to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, and Selby, from what I understand, published a special edition of Selbyanna and Kovach asked that the plant be named for him.

    Well, in the meantime, and a year previous, Dr. Christenson had be also studying the previously unidentified orchid and was just about to publish (under the name peruvianum for its native home) ]when much to his surprise (or so I am imagining) five days before he was to publish, the Selby article was released. Of course egos were hurt here.

    This is evidently where things get more interesting.Peru brings charges against Kovach because there was evidence that he violated CITES and imported the plant illegaly (it is unclear as to whether or not there are forged docs or that there were documents at all), there is a raid on his collection in Goldvein, Virginia (hey, I know exactly where that is), and there are trials, fines are paid, Kovach pleads guilty. Also, quite a few people (according to five articles about the plant I have read so far) who used to work for Selby where found to no longer work at Selby. Needless to say...this is not so good.

    Christenson, incensed (naturally), as well as Peru, have both asked that the plant be renamed peruvianum considering the non-legal smuggling of the plant. In my humble opinion, I agree with this...on both the "nanny nanny boo-boo" level since it was originally (according to the articles, yet again) Christenson's find and he was allegedly following what should have been protocol (in situ observation, legal collection, appropriate documentation), but also considering that someone would do such a dity deed as to steal a plant and then have the gumption to name the plant after himself is just kinda sick.

    Anyway, I also found out today (according to the site of one of the growers allowed to sell the plant) that sale of the plant before 2007 is illegal (they are lab grown specimens...this grower stated that any kovachii sold prior to 2007 could not be guaranteed to be of legal sale...whether or not this is true, I am not sure...needless to say...since this plant has garnered so much attention, it is safe to reason that allot of people will want it. I admit, I may end up with one in my collection...but you'd better be sure, my tag is going to say "peruvianum".

    Anyway, I just glossed over a lot here, otherwise it would be a huge rambling, and as a few folks here know, I can be a talker...I tried not to blow anything out of proportion (I appologize if I did) but I couldn't help the slightly objective stance, it is a shame that the act of one guy greedy for fame had to sully (to whatever extent) the name of an institution like Selby, and cost some folks their jobs. I guess there is the ethical argument as to whether or not Selby had the duty to step up and question the plant, or if they decided to "scoop" the story anyway because it is one of the "new finds" of the century.

    Posted below are links to a couple of the articles I ran across if anyone is interested:

    http://www.greenzoo.net/trouble.htm
    http://www.sptimes.com/2003/11/02/Ta..._scandal.shtml
    http://www.orchidspecies.com/phragkovatchii.htm

    if you want the blurb from the one grower...its not too hard to find...google under "peruvianum"...

  2. #2
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    I have already received a catalogue from one grower offering two different clones, of 'kovachii' - I believe they were Laura and Ann, but my memory is not always accurate. These were to be available next year, they already exist but they "did not want to ship them until they are well established", guess they didn't want to mention the legal troubles. Anyway, they want a WHOLE lot of money for seedlings... unproven seedlings at that!

    It is a large and beautiful bloom, although I think it looks a bit like Dumbo - the petals are so large..

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    as soon as i read that, i went and googled up a picture. as soon as i saw it, i picked up my notebook, flipped to the "species" page of my list, and added it.

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    I think Kovach got off too lightly and then he has the gall to say "its just a flower." He should have thought of that before he smuggled it out of Peru. The man is an absolute idiot and doesn't deserve to grace an orchid with his name. I'm sure that he thinks that his sentence is a small price to pay in order to have his name on an orchid--what an ego maniac! Not dropping his name off the orchid will only encourage other idiots to do the same thing Kovac did.

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    Nice recap, Aaron!

    The actual newspaper stories are wonderful soap opera. But before I knew how hard Selby was penalized by the Kovachii scandal, my reaction was, "they do it all the time, importing or accepting smuggled plants for their own advancement - and all they ever get is a wrist slap." I wasn't sorry to see the severity of the punishment upped. I don't know who did what and who didn't, but when an institution is routinely involved with plant smuggling with little accountability, I think sterner measures must be taken.

    I'm not in the know. I'm only working with what I've heard and read. But I support Eric Christenson's claims to naming the plant Phrag. peruvianum. I can't believe the naming powers-that-be can honor the skullduggery of Kovach and the Selby and let the name kovachii stand. Here's one case where I'm encouraging a taxonomic shift with all my heart!

    I'll willingly consider an informed stance to the contrary. Anyone out there want to opine?

    Julie

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    Default kovachii

    Quote Originally Posted by p 1 View Post
    as soon as i read that, i went and googled up a picture. as soon as i saw it, i picked up my notebook, flipped to the "species" page of my list, and added it.
    Yes it is an impressive plant, and undoubtedly be a fine contributer in orchid genetics, adding the purple and wine hues to the genus. It will be interesting to see what the end result is...we'll have to give it 5 years or so to know the results. The first time I saw the photos, I too very quickly added it to my list, but considering the controversy....I am slightly hesitant.

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    Really, 'can't be legally sold untill 2007'? Someone is legally selling them in Canada, right now. Orders are being filled as soon as the seedlings are ready out of flask. Some seedlings are ready now and first orders are being filled. I can possibly get a seedling before November if they are ready and if I'm next in line, but I have no clue how long the list is. They're really cheap compared to the american nurseries. The ones offered are P. kovachii 'Laura' x 'Anna', does anyone know what those two plants are like?

    BTW how on earth is someone supposed to get an undiscovered orchid out of a country legally? On the CITES permit application, the species name must be filled in, but an undiscovered has no species name yet. There is no choice but to either label the plant as something else and get a permit (which whould take too long and is also smuggling), or smuggling it the regular way. Any scientist would have to smuggle to ID a species. There is no legal way to get an undiscovered orchid out of a country, just another hindering to the scientific world.
    Last edited by smartie2000; October 4th, 2006 at 11:16 PM.

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    I will add a little bit to the story on James Kovach's Phragmipedium...

    When it came here to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Stark Research Center (where the WOIC is located), it was recieved by Stig Dalstrom and John Atwood. Basically, the plant was immediately underway to be described as sp. nov., and was to appear in a Selbyana supplement that came out ASAP. The taxon described was named 'Phragmipedium kovachii', described by Stig Dalstrom, John T. Atwood, and Ricardo Fernandez.

    Much before James Kovach brought in the unknown Phragmipedium to Selby Gardens, E.A. Christenson (who lives just down the street from Selby) was describing the same taxon from a "source" in Texas. He was describing it as 'Phragmipedium peruvianum', and to be published in 'Orchids' by the AOS.

    Now because the two described the same taxon, one epithet had to be reduced to synonymy. It was resolved by the mail date of the description, where the Selbyana supplement came out before that of AOS 'Orchids' magazine. So Phramipedium kovachii is the valid epithet, while E.A. Christenson's 'Phragmipedium peruvianum was reduced to synonymy.

    As for the proper acceptance of this taxon, it MUST be Phragmipedium kovachii... It is not true that E.A. Christenson's treatment of the same taxon was done in situ. His treatment of the taxon was of the unknown Phragmipedium being illegally grown by an orchid grower in Texas. The greenhouses were searched, and could not reveal any evidence of the unknown Phrag. taxon. The grower was charged with illegal smuggling of some Phrag. hybrids from Ecuador (the documents listed them as another genus of orchid, as Cypripedioideae are held in quarantine, and may die in the proccess.).

    As for people who quit their jobs at Selby... there was only one person who resigned. Meg Lowman, Director of Research and Conservation and CEO of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, resigned because of the criticism in her funds management. It is coincidental that it happened at the time of the new Phrag. coming into Selby Gardens. She may have made a comment or two about the plant to the press, but it is irrelevant to why she reisgned. There were a few volunteers who quit, as they wanted nothing to do with the Selby controversy. Management and staff may have changed a little because of Roger Birkel replacing Meg Lowman. It is completely irrelevant to the Phrag. kovachii coming into Selby.

    With all of this said (and lots more to say), it is quite irresponsible to say that James Kovach was greedy in bringing the plant back to the United States. James was not after fame, he was after a nice addition to his collection, and contributing to science in the mean time. To suggest that he purposefully planned on being fined more money than he has and being arrested will improve his fame is rather stretching, no? And really, Kovach is not a smuggler... there are other people who's names do not occur in newspapers who are orchid smugglers; people who actually wipe out the population of all known plants. I believe that Leonid Averyanov has written that he saw a truck full of Phrag. kovachii driving down the road in Peru... nothing is to happen with the person who just wiped out a colony of Phrag. kovachii, but yet Kovach faces charges?

    Lastly, the Phrag. kovachii has been known to be in Peru for quite a while, before E.A. Christenson found out and before James bought a plant in Peru. The species is actually quite abundant in nature (like a Phrag. besseae)... I will share other details about this species later...

    -P.A. Mahon

    PS: We are biased to orchids as we like them very much, but there are rarer and more valuable (both monetarily and medicinally) plants out there...I, too, have the gall (and some) to say "it's just a flower"...

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    Well Phrag kovachii is being sold in Europe with CITES certification.
    My 6" seedling came with a photocopy .

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    He brought the plant out of Peru and into the US illegally. That is smuggling, I don't care if it is just a flower. Disregard for the laws of any nation, at any level, should not be tolerated. And he is greedy, or he would not have smuggled in a plant "for his collection". It would have been less greedy to bring it in "for the good of science", although that is a joke in itself. Research could be done just as well in Peru as here. As for the name, I am certain the people of Peru have had a name for it for centuries, and we ought to use that. We are amazingly arrogant to think we can rename whatever we want, that we are so much better at research and science than the rest of the world.

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