Saturday, September 24, 2016

What is a phalaenopsis? It might not be what you think

Phalaenopsis display at the 2016 New York Orchid Show

What is a Phalaenopsis?  If you are an orchid enthusiast, then at first this question might seem a little too simple.  After all, the Phalaenopsis is probably the most iconic orchid.  If you search google images for 'orchid', 7 out of the first 10 image results depict Phalaenopsis flowers. It's what I first think of when someone says 'orchid'.
What a Phalaenopsis orchid typically looks like: Phalaenopsis OX Black Face 'OX 1647'

What we typically refer to as a "Phalaenopsis orchid" are the myriad hybrids that belong to the Phalaenopsis genus. This classification encompasses approximately 60 species. Also known as the 'Moth orchid' or the 'Butterfly orchid' they are a colorful, varied, long-flowering and easy-to-grow plants that are a favorite among hobbyists and breeders alike. There are more than 35,000 Phalaenopsis hybrids listed in the International Orchid Registry, and nearly 100 new hybrids are added every month!

However, over time, I've come across orchid species that bear the name "phalaenopsis" which do not actually have much relation at all to the Moth Orchid.  

I wanted to find out, just how many such orchid species are named 'phalaenopsis'? Turns out there are Four. 

Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis
Caucaea phalaenopsis
Dendrobium phalaenopsis
Miltoniopsis phalaenopsis

This made me curious about what these orchids might have in common that they all earned the same species name?  Do they resemble the Moth orchid more than other species in their genus?  I decided to briefly profile each of these "Not phalaenopsis" phalaenopsis species and see what came up.

Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis
These flowers are weird. They look nothing like the Phalaenopsis genus, and app they smell like "dead, rotting mice".  Turns out this orchid was named not for its flowers, but rather for its large leaves. This species was discovered in 1937 in New Guinea.


Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis
Image credit: Image,  by Orchidgalore (Flickr gallery)
Bulbophylum phalaenopsis
Image credit: Image, Stefano (Flickr gallery)


Caucaea phalaenopsis (aka Oncidium phalaenopsis)
Before today, I've never even heard of an orchid genus called "Caucaea". These orchids are closely related to Oncidiums.  In fact Caucaea and Oncidium are so closely related, that "Oncidium phalaenopsis" is another name for the same species. Caucaea phalaenopsis grows at high elevations in Ecuador, where it was first described in 1869.
Caucaea phalaenopsis (aka Oncidium phalaenopsis)
Image credit: Image, by Dogtooth77 (Flickr gallery)
If I squint and ignore the typical oncidium flower shape, I can definitely see how the color pattern of these flowers evokes those of Phalaenopsis hybrids.

Dendrobium phalaenopsis
This is clearly another species that was named for its resemblance to common phalaenopsis hybrids. This species goes under a number of different names, including Dendrobium biggibum, Vappodes phalaenopsis, The Cooktown Orchid, and The Mauve Butterfly Orchid. This orchid is native to Queensland Australia, where it was discovered in 1852.
Dendrobium phalaenopsis
Image credit: Image, by Stefano (Flickr gallery)

Miltoniopsis phalaenopsis (aka Miltonia phalaenopsis)
This flower has almost the same color patterning as Caucaea phalaenopsis, and likely was similarly named for that reason. It was discovered in the cloud forests of Colombia in 1854.
Miltoniopsis phalaenopsis (aka Miltonia phalaenopsis)
Image credit: Image, by Quimbaya (Flickr gallery)
While none of these flowers are perfect doppelgangers of the Phalaenopsis genus, they clearly do have enough features in common to explain why they were named this way. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Oncidopsis Memoria Martin Orenstein 'Lulu'

Oncidopsis Memoria Martin Orenstein 'Lulu'
Oncidopsis orchids are hybrids between Oncidium and Miltoniopsis.  This particular hybrid gracefully displays the balance between these two genera: its flowers have the full roundness typical of Miltoniopsis, yet they also display an intensity of color and pattern that reminds me of Oncidium crosses.

Oncidopsis Memoria Martin Orenstein is a 1992 hybrid between Oncidopsis Aglaon and Miltoniopsis Martin Orenstein. It's actually a slightly unusual crossing, because Oncidopsis Aglaon is a very old hybrid: it was registered in 1926.  Such old hybrids don't frequently maintain popularity long enough to still be available for hybridizing nearly a century after their creation.


Genealogy of Oncidopsis Memoria Martin Orenstein
You can see a full resolution version of this image here: http://imgur.com/EVlv8Om

As is typical with orchid hybrids, the breeding scheme for Oncidopsis Memoria Martin Orenstein is a bit of an overcomplicated mess. There are approximately 50 progenitors in the diagram, including 5 Oncidium species and 3 Miltoniopsis species.  

Miltoniopsis breeding clusters very strongly around Miltoniopsis Bleuana, a primary hybrid of M. vexillaria and M. roezlii. Interestingly, this orchid goes by two different names.  M. Bleuana was the first and oldest Miltoniopsis hybrid; it was registered in 1889 and named after its maker, Alfred Bleu.  However, in 1921, the exact same cross was again registered under a different name: M. Reine Elisabeth

The reason for all this Miltoniopsis interbreeding is that in the 1800s, orchids of this genus were in very high demand, but botanists' ability to hybridize them was quite limited. There were only 2 possible primary hybrids for botanists to work with: Miltoniopsis Bleuana [roezlii x vexillaria] and Miltoniopsis Venus [phalaenopsis x vexillaria].  It took another half century to discover many of the Miltoniopsis species we know today, and then more time for breeders to generate new primary Miltoniopsis hybrids in the 1990's.  Until then, overzealous Miltoniopsis breeders kept generating endless variants of the same few basic crosses.


Species progenitors of Oncidopsis Memoria Martin Orenstein
Photo credits: 
Oncidium harryanum by Diego Rodriguez (Flickr gallery)
Miltoniopsis roezliiby Strohero (wikimedia commons)
Miltoniopsis phalaenopsisWikimedia commons image

Here are the Orchid species that went into creating Oncidopsis Memoria Martin Orenstein.  These are all a familiar list of suspects that have contributed in various combinations to most other Oncidium and Miltoniopsis hybrids I've profiled: Oncidium alexandre, Oncidium nobile, Oncidium luteopurpureum, Oncidium harryanum, Miltoniopsis vexillaria, Miltoniopsis roezlii, and Miltoniopsis phalaenopsis.

The lip coloration of Miltoniopsis phalaenopsis shows up in the final hybrid.  Likewise the purple of Miltoniopsis vexillaria comes through, as does the slightly more ruffled flower shape of Oncidium alexandre and Oncidium nobile. It remains a mystery to me what any of the other oncidium species might have contributed to this cross, or whether their traits have been effectively bred out of the orchid during the hybridization process.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Miltoniopsis Herralexandre

Miltoniopsis Herralexandre
This was one of my favorite photos from the 2016 New York Orchid Show.  The elegant flowers of Miltoniopsis Herralexandre are just beginning to open. This orchid is a 1992 cross between Miltoniopsis Alexandre Dumas and Miltoniopsis Herrenhausen.  Following a tradition seen in many older hybrids, the name of the resulting orchid is a combination of the names of its two parents.


Genealogy of Miltoniopsis Herralexandre
You can see a full resolution view of the image here: https://imgur.com/gallery/ZMlZ6

The breeding scheme of this hybrid shows how just 3 different miltoniopsis species (M. vexillaria, M. roezli, and M. phalaenopsis) were interbred over and over again to create Miltoniopsis Herralexandre.  Here are the three species shown below.


Progenitors of Miltoniopsis Herralexandre
Photo credits:
Miltoniopsis roezlii, Wikimedia commons image
Miltoniopsis phalaenopsis, Wikimedia commons image




Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Oncidopsis Yellow Parade 'Alpine'

Oncidopsis Yellow Parade 'Alpine'
This cheery yellow orchid is an old but still popular hybrid.  The intergenic cross between Oncidium and Miltoniopsis results in compact plants that bloom with spikes of two to five 2.5-inch flowers.  Oncidopsis Yellow Parade is a 1988 hybrid between Oncidopsis Yellow Bird and Oncidium Parade. It seems that the parents of this hybrid are no longer commonly cultivated, as I could not find images of their flowers. 

I was, however, just barely able to complete the genealogy of this orchid.  This orchid has 68 progenitors, resulting in a sprawling genealogy tree. However, in the mess that is typical of early 20th century orchid breeding, there are actually only 8 orchid species that have contributed to this cross.  On the Miltoniopsis side of the family tree, only 2 Miltoniopsis species (M. vexillaria and M. roezli) have generated 16 progenitors. 

All in all, it resulted in an intricate family tree that I encourage you guys to check it out. (the chart is much too large for the image embedded below to be legible, but it gives a scale to the breeding scheme.)
The very complicated genealogy of Oncidopsis Yellow Parade

One interesting observation revealed by Oncidium Yellow Parade's genealogy is how it is closely related to several of the other Oncidium hybrids I've profiled recently.

For example, Oncidium Brimstone Butterfly and Oncidium Golden Guinea are common progenitors for both Oncidopsis Yellow Parade and Oncostele Wildcat (which is itself a progenitor to several orchids I've written about.  The progenitors of Brimstone Butterfly and Golden Guinea account for 34 out of the total 68 orchids that went into the breeding of Oncidopsis Yellow Parade.  Essentially, Oncidopsis Yellow Parade shares about 50% of its genetics with Wildcat, Catatante and Sunkissed.

Oncidopsis Yellow Parade also contains ALL 16 of the progenitors that went into breeding Oncidium Midas.


These oncidium intergenics are closely related
There is definitely a similarity in the flower shape and general looks of Oncidopsis Yellow Parade and Oncostele Wildcat. The resemblence to Oncidium Midas is less pronounced by not completely absent.

Additionally, I have located my new record for oldest oncidium hybrid: Oncidium Wilckeanum.  This hybrid was registered in 1880!  O. Wilckeanum is a naturally occuring cross between Oncidium alexandre and Oncidium luteopurpureum.  During the late 1800's orchid enthusiasts would attempt to replicate natural hybrids by crossing the species they suspected to be parents of a given hybrid orchid.  Oncidium Wilckeanum was one of the very first hybrids to have its parentage registered and recognized (though not without continuing controversy and debate).  No one seems to grow this cross anymore, however, as I could not find any images of what this hybrid may have looked like.

Finally these are all of the 8 species that were bred together to create Oncidopsis Yellow Parade: 6 species of Oncidium and 2 Miltoniopsis.


Progenitor species for Oncidopsis Yellow Parade
Photo credits: 
Oncidium hallii by Andreas Kay (Flickr gallery)
Oncidium harryanum by Diego Rodriguez (Flickr gallery)
Miltoniopsis roezlii, by Strohero (wikimedia commons)


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Brascidostele Gilded Tower 'Mystic Maze'

Brascidostele Gilded Tower 'Mystic Maze'
This may be my favorite oncidium intergenic ever.  It is almost certainly the most photogenic I've come across.  Brascidostele Gilded Tower 'Mystic Maze' stole my attention at both the 2015 and the 2016 New York Orchid Show.
Brascidostele Gilded Tower 'Mystic Maze'
I absolutely adore these large vibrant flowers.  The blooms are 3.5 inches wide, on tall arching inflorescences. There are two other named clones of this hybrid, displaying variants on the color scheme. 'Tessa' is an overall lighter flower, with a cream lip. 'Thai Gold' has the brown spotting of the main petals extend all the way out to the tips.

Brascidostele Gilded Tower is a 2005 cross between Brassostele Summit and Brassidium Gilded Urchin.  The full genealogy, a fairly simple one, is shown below.
Genealogy of Brascidostele Gilded Tower
Four orchid species, from three different genera have gone into the creation of this hybrid: Rhynchostele bictoniensis, Brassia keiliana, Brassia arcuigera, and Oncidium wentworthianum.  Here is what they look like:
Progenitors for Brascidostele Gilded Tower
Photo Credits:
I wonder who came up with the naming for a Rhynchostele/Brassia/Oncidium intergenic-- 'Brascidostele' is such an awkward mouthful of a name.  The crossing makes such strikingly gorgeous orchids that I wish it had a prettier name to grace them with.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Oncostelopsis Sunkissed 'Buttercup'

Oncostelopsis Sunkissed 'Buttercup'
The grex name of this yellow orchid is a bit of a mouthful.  However, its genealogy is not too different from the last two orchids I wrote about on this blog.  Oncostelopsis are a cross of oncidium, rhynchostele, and miltoniopsis orchids.  This particular hybrid is the product of a 2009 cross between Oncostele Catatante and Oncidopsis Living Fire. 

Parentage of Oncostelopsis Sunkissed
Photo Credit:
Oncostele Catatante: Maria's Orchids, Oncostele Catatante
To be frankly honest, I am thoroughly underwhelmed by this hybrid.  The orchid seems to have inherited neither the prolific bounty of flowers typical of Oncostele Catatante, nor the brilliantly vivid crimson of Oncidopsis Living Fire.

Genealogy of Oncostelopsis Sunkissed
Progenitor species of Oncostelopsis Sunkissed
Photo credits:
Note: Oncostelopsis Sunkissed was referred to as Burrageara Sunkissed until the most recent reclassification of Oncidium alliance species resulted in a change of the genus name.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Oncostele Romance 'Oro Rojo'

Oncostel Romance 'Oro Rojo'
Oncostele Wildcat was parent to Oncostele Catatante, and Oncostele Catatante is the parent to this brightly colored orchid. Oncostele Romance is a 2010 cross between Oncostele Catatante and Oncidium Petite Shine.

There's a couple different cultivars of this hybrid out in the internet.  The 'Oro Rojo' I photographed has scarlet petals and a golden lip.  Meanwhile, Oncostele Romance 'Peachy' has the same orange tones as its parent Oncostele Catatante.


Oncostele Romance 'Oro Rojo'

I could not complete a genealogy for the orchid.  This hybrid's parentage has something like 200 parent plants, and the software I use to draw my genealogy trees cannot handle files of this size.  The complexity of the orchid's lineage comes from the utter mess of orchid breeding that went on in the first half of the 20th century. During this time, a relatively small number of primary hybrids were being bred among each other in every combination possible to produce a plethora of very closely related orchid crosses.  But if you follow the genealogy trees, all of these hybrids reach back to the same handful of parent species.

The result is: Oncidium Petite Shine has over a hundred progenitors.  However, it only adds 1 new oncidium species to the parentage of Oncostele Romance, that were not already represented in its other parent, Oncostele Catatante: Oncidium noezlianum.


Oncostele Romance progenitors
Photo credits:


These are the 12 species that went into making Oncostele Romance:
Oncidium noezlianum, Oncidium nobile, Oncidium alexandre, Oncidium spectatissimum, Oncidium luteopurpureum, Oncidium halii, Oncidium harryanum, Oncidium leucochilum, Oncidium fuscatum, Oncidium cariniferum, Oncidium sphacelatum, Rhynchostele uroskinneri