Saturday, March 19, 2016

The many faces of Oncostele Wildcat

Oncostele Wildcat
This is Oncostele Wildcat. It is an orchid hybrid with a wide variety of color patterns.  The five flowers in the image above are ones that I've personally photographed during different years of the New York Orchid Show.  However, searching online for 'Oncostele Wildcat' reveals an even broader range of flower shapes and colors.


This hybrid, which was registered in 1992, is widely popular, and has a great diversity of flowers.  I had a lot of fun researching its background.  Digging into the ancestry of Oncostele Wildcat is like going into the very history of orchid breeding itself.

Check out this crazy lineage tree.
Geneology of Oncostele Wildcat

[Side note: I'm having a difficult time getting these lineage trees to look sharp in preview mode, especially on mobile.  Blogger does not have an option for uploading SVG files.  Anyone have a suggestion how to best upload detailed diagrams without losing resolution?]

Things start out fairly normal; Oncostele Wildcat is a cross between Oncostele Rustic Bridge and Oncidium Crowborough.  However, after that things get complicated and the genealogy tree turns into a complicated web of crosses and back-crosses. In the parentage of Oncidium Crowborough are 6 generations of orchid hybrids, dating as far back as 1898!

For reference, the mid-1800's were the peak of Victorian era orchid mania, when explorers traveled around the world to collect wild orchids.  The first known orchid hybrid was made in 1853 (Calanthe Dominii [Calanthe masuca x Calanthe furcata]. Only 40 years later, the hybrids at the top of Wildcat's genealogy tree may be some of the first oncidium crosses ever made.

Without a history book on orchid cultivation at my disposal, I could not definitively figure out what was the first registered oncidium hybrid. However, this patent references a cross by Vuylsteke made in 1898 as the first time an oncidium was hybridized in cultivation.  The patent doesn't specify the cross, which could be referring to either Oncidium Ardentissimum or Oncidium Rolfeae. However, both of these very early hybrids are in the family tree of Oncostele Wildcat. 

Oncostele Wildcat is made from 9 orchid species: 1 Rhynchostele, and 8 Oncidiums.

Rhynchostele uroskinneri, Oncidium fuscatum, Oncidium leucochilum, Oncidium alexandre, Oncidium spectatissimum, Oncidium nobile, Oncidium luteopurpureum, Oncidium hallii, Oncidium harryanum
Progenitors of Oncostele wildcat

Photo credits: 
Oncidium fuscatum by Eduardo A. Pacheco (Flickr gallery)
Oncidium leucochilum by Arne and Bent Larsen Orchid collection
Oncidium hallii by Andreas Kay (Flickr gallery)
Oncidium harryanum by Diego Rodriguez (Flickr gallery)
Note: Oncidium alexandre is also commonly referred to as Oncidium crispum.

The genealogy tree for Oncostele Wildcat shows that Oncidium alexandre was crossed into this hybrid 6 different times.  It looks like the overall flower shape of Oncostele Wildcat and Oncidium alexandre are highly similar.  Another overachiever, Oncidium spectatissimum, was bred into the cross 3 times; it has many similar dark and bright orange markings as Oncostele Wildcat. However, with a hybrid this complicated, it may be futile to try and parse out how each individual species contributed to the end result.

And finally, these are the larger versions of the photographs that comprised my title image.
Oncostele Wildcat
Oncostele Wildcat 'Carmela'
Oncostele Wildcat 'Cheetah'
Oncostele Wildcat 'Everlasting'
Oncostele Wildcat 'Silver Cool Room'

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