Occasionally one key plant or hybrid is found for all progeny to follow in a line of breeding. Cattleya intermedia var. acquinii is the progenator of nearly all hybrids with lip coloring on the petals. Cattleya Bow Bells has formed a great series of whites. In blue breeding, the evidence points to one hybrid as a keystone for fine, blue-tepaled progeny - C. Ariel coerulea.
Cattleya Ariel coerulea was first registered in 1915 by Sir Jeremiah Coleman. Its parents were C. bowringiana var. lilacina and C. gaskelliana var. coerulescens. The several flowers are about three and a half inches across, carrying an amount of lavender in the sepals and a strong lavender bar in the lip. The color phase, however, is distinctly shaded blue with the growths showing just a touch of pink. The forelobe of the lip is a dark blue-lavender.
Several clones of this hybrid are available, but there is strong feeling that some are synonymous. No doubt variety 'Bodnant's' is a distinct clone. Varieties 'Bracey', 'MoBotGard' and 'Q's' are considered the same clone by this writer. Several unnamed clones may be the same as these, selfed seedlings, or in truth, C. Portia coerulea.
The first hybrid registered with C. Ariel coerulea as a parent was C. Princess Helen Victoria (x C. maxima var. gigantea, 1926). The outcome is not known, though, judging from the parentage, it was probably lavenders.
Two other early hybrids are known. One is a selfing which produced progeny of approximately the same color, some with very good shape. The other cross was with C. guttata var. alba , which resulted in lavenders.
The first truly worthy hybrid was Laeliocattleya Blue Boy (C. Ariel coerulea 'Bodnant's' x Lc. elegans 'werkhauserii', 1960). The flowers are about the same size as C. Ariel, having a shape similar to and better than this parent. The Lc. elegans parent has muddy greenish sepals with a blue, lavender-barred lip. Laeliocattleya Blue Boy was back-crossed to C. Ariel coerulea (Lc. Blue Knight, 1964), but I am not aware of the outcome. They can be expected to be of good shape, same general size and color of the laeliocattleya parent.
Laelia purpurata var. werkhauserii was also crossed with C. Ariel coerulea (Lc. Mariner, 1961) and gave Lc. Blue Boy type progeny, but not quite as dark and having a stronger tendency to hold the blue color when grown warm. (It should be noted that at warmer temperatures the blue color does not readily develop. The result is either more lavender shading or white sepals. This condition is what is termed unstable, in the strict sense. However, in this discussion, stability is used to mean having sepal color all the time, regardless of its shift toward lavender.)
One of the recent hybrids utilizing C. Ariel coerulea ('Q's') is with the unstable C. labiata var. coerulea (C. Sapphire, 1969). The C. Ariel has stabilized the sepal color as a good medium blue. The lip is a dark blue with some lavender shading. Some larger, well-shaped forms are appearing among the progeny which lend themselves favorably to further breeding possibilities.
The blooming season for C. Ariel coerulea is fall and, often, spring. This is about the same time for Lc. Blue Boy and Lc. Mariner. Cattleya Sapphire is a fall bloomer.
Laeliocattleya Blue Boy is being used extensively as a parent. The progeny show considerable variation in shape, especially. This is attributed to the Lc. elegans influence. Unfortunately, we do not have progeny of Lc. Mariner or C. Sapphire to discuss at this time, but it is felt that these will have less variability.
Cattleya Ariel coerulea has been considered a good breeder of blues for some time. Though not a truly fine colored blue, it acts nearly neutral with this color, imparting little lavender. It greatly stabilizes the blue sepal colors if they are present. It imparts similar to better shape than its own. Size, in general, is similar to its own, though influenced slightly by the other parent involved. The offspring are vigorous growers.
The reason why C. Ariel coerulea is considered so important to blue-tepaled breeding is relatively simple to understand. The material currently available to stabilize the blue color in the sepals is extremely limited. Cattleya Portia coerulea does in part stabilize color, but not nearly as well, nor does it give as good a shape. Cattleya warneri var. coerulea does not appear to stabilize well, from the relatively few progeny that have bloomed, nor is C. percivaliana 'Ondina' likely to do so. Cattleya trianae 'Blue Bird' has yet to breed a blue, other then when selfed. Laeliocattleya Jericho has yet to show just what it will do in breeding. The blue forms of C. walkeriana would induce considerable variability.
Unfortunately, blue cattleya breeding is still in its infancy and information is still fairly limited. Based on that which is available, however, it appears well within reason to believe that C. Ariel coerulea will be the foundation for the entire blue-tepaled line of breeding. It will be through the use of its larger, tepal-color stabilized progeny that even larger blue-tepaled forms will be derived.
(American Orchid Society Bulletin, Vol. 39, No. 6, June, 1970, pp. 496-498.)