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Excerpts from

This issue is dedicated to Frank Smith for his contributions to the Orchid Digest
and to honor his excellence in breeding of phalaenopsis.

VOLUME 77, NO. 4—October, November, December 2013


7 pages, 27 photos

Chian Xen Super Idol ‘CX255’ (Chian Xen Mammon x Luchia Lip)
©Orchidaceae, Inc.

The pace of change in phalaenopsis breeding in Taiwan has been tremendous over the last 15 years. Fueled by a broad interest in breeding phalaenopsis, from the small hobbyists at home to large commercial nurseries, it seems that everywhere you visit in Taiwan you can see beautiful new hybrids. With so many different types of growers trying their hand at breeding, the number of new hybrids to see is astonishing. Of the many in Taiwan, two trends have caught our attention—one old, one new.

The first is harlequin breeding. Starting in the mid-1990s harlequins got their start from a chance mutation of Phalaenopsis Golden Peoker. This start has given rise to a staggering number of hybrids which have continued to improve in form, size and depth of color. This new breeding shows no signs of slowing down.

More recently, big foot or big lip breeding (a.k.a. petaloid Phalaenopsis) has gained interest there. The first clone of this type of flower came from another chance mutation in the hybrid Phalaenopsis World Class (Mae Hitch x Kathy Sagaert) from Carmela Orchids in Hawaii. This cross gave us the clone ‘Big Foot’ starting the trend in what is now known as big foot or big lip breeding line. This mutation creates a reverse peloric in which the lip mimics the petals creating a much larger lip...

5 pages, 5 image

Phal. stuartiana yellow Taiwan strain, freshly opened flower.
©Arnie Gum

In the year 1881, Reichenbach described a new species of Phalaenopsis in the Gardener’s Chronicles, the leading publication of its time for exciting horticultural finds, developments, and other news worthy items. He called it Phalaenopsis stuartiana in honor of Stuart Low from the renowned orchid nursery Hugh Low and Co. Herman Sweet (1980) suggests that originally the species was to be named in honor of William Boxall, a famous orchid collector who was responsible for bringing in the first shipments of Phal. stuartiana. Reichenbach had written the species name as Phal. boxallii but later scratched that out. Why he changed his mind is not known but Reichenbach, later writing again in the Gardeners’ Chronicles the same year lauded the display of Paph. stuartiana that he had just witnessed at the Lows’ nursery...

9 pages, 19 images

Phal. philippinensis ‘Highjack’ HCC/AOS and CCE/AOS
©Richard Noel

From the day of discovery, the qualities that have driven those who seek to gather and cultivate orchids have been color, richness, and elegance. This is true of the allure for cattleyas or phalaenopsis, and other genera. Nobody could have predicted the ‘value enjoyment’ of orchid growing. Value because of their ease of reproduction and development into affordable blooming plants; value because of the stature and longevity as a flowering plant; value because many can last and re-bloom for years without demanding needs. When phalaenopsis were discovered, the first arrivals were the large white and pink flowering species. In time, it was expected that we would perfect and improve their qualities. Today these improvements have created the foundation which guarantees that Phalaenopsis breeding will be branching in many directions and continue to be in the pole position of hybridizing. To date, phals lead registrations at 31,382 hybrids (AOS website). I am not a phalaenopsis expert, but I have explored how elegance is created, perfected, perfected again, and then starts to splash out into quite a colorful palette...

2 pages, 2 images

Phal. Emeraude ‘Sierra Vasquez’ AM/AOS
©Arthur Pinkers

Every month there is an American Orchid Society Judging event held at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. At the May 2013 judging, George Vazquez, of Zuma Canyon Orchids, dazzled the judges by bringing in twelve extraordinary plants of Phalaenopsis Emeraude. Each plant was beautifully grown, but the main characteristic that wowed everyone was the spectacular flowers. Every graceful inflorescence on the plants contained full, beautifully round flowers with the overall impression of a jaw-droppingly pale lime green color. The individual flower parts were of varying intensities of light green, but they were the truest green, large phals that the judges had seen. The judges granted multiple awards to the plants, including the seldom given Award of Quality, given when 12 or more plants with award-worthy flowers are presented. In this display of plants, the flower qualities of form and color were remarkably consistent among all...

8 pages, 21 images

Phalaenopsis Princess Kaiulani ‘Chin Yo’ AM/AOS
©Peter Lin

I love phalaenopsis. This genus has always been popular due to ease of indoor culture and flower longevity. For almost thirty years, I have been collecting various Phalaenopsis species and hybrids. There is such a diverse selection of phalaenopsis when it comes to flower colors, patterns, shapes, and size. While I enjoy all phalaenopsis, my favorite is the novelty phalaenopsis with a bright color and fragrance.

What is a novelty phalaenopsis? According to the late taxonomist Dr. Eric Christenson:
“At one point any hybrid that was not a standard, large-flowered cross was called a novelty. With the coalescence of multifloras and reds as distinct classes, novelty phalaenopsis hybrids are primarily interspecific hybrids of subgenus Polychilos or crosses with similarly sized species and hybrids. These plants are produced primarily for the hobbyist and orchid breeder markets. They lack the larger flower size and elegant erect-arching inflorescences of standard hybrids.”

(translated by Daniel Geiger)
9 pages, 19 images

Phalaenopsis parishii
©Olaf Gruss

In addition to the species with large flowers and plants, the genus Phalaenopsis includes species with small plants and small attractive flowers. These species are usually only offered by specialized orchid nurseries and can be seen at orchid exhibitions. Some of these species are found in the Subgenus Parishianae. The species are used for various hybridizing attempts. Only a few of these hybrids are available in large numbers in the trade because of the problem with high levels of sterility...


6 pages, 22 photos

Group 1: parishii
©Paul Tuskes

To understand why the culture of Phalaenopsis species may differ from those of Phalaenopsis hybrids, let’s look at the differences between these two groups. The distinction between species adapted to their natural habitat and hybrids with mixed gene pools that are adapted to the greenhouse is the most notable factor contributing to different cultural requirements. The commonly available commercial plants that we see in stores are hybrids. In the case of commercial plants, hybrids involve crossing different species, and then with other hybrids in order to select larger and fuller flowers than found in the wild. Continued tinkering has introduced unique color combinations and patterns along with increased floriferousness and ease of culture. Commercial growers apply intense selective pressure for the following characteristics.

  • Must be a strong fast growing plant
  • Must bloom quickly and dependably
  • Adapted to greenhouse conditions

These are all desirable qualities in culture and plants that do not meet these criteria are culled in order to provide more growing space. These plants are not selected for their ability to naturally reproduce, attract pollinators, or survive the climatic extremes experienced in nature.

Species, on the other hand, are naturally occurring populations that have the potential to exchange genes. The sum of the populations represents the overall species characteristics and its potential to adapt. Selective pressure in nature is quite different than in the commercial greenhouse.

  • Ability to attract insect pollinators
  • Growth/bloom tied to climate/pollinator
  • Preferred substrate based on competition with other epiphytes
  • Ability to reproduce sexually