In January of 1958, when the "orchid bug" first bit, little did I realize to what that infestation would lead. Settling on the color blue in Laelias and Cattleyas less than a year later fixed my direction. First was the problem of finding literature about them, of which there was little. The second and most difficult problem was that of locating the plants and acquiring them on a very limited budget. This latter aspect still is present today.
Some of the plants had been previously located by others and were in collections in the area. The major effort, however, was put forth in the summer of 1962 when inquiries were sent throughout the world. Thereafter, a number of species were located and added to the relatively small collection. In 1966, with the writing of several articles for the American Orchid Society Bulletin, and the assistance of Gordon Dillon, its editor, more species were located and acquired. Several of these had hither to fore never been mentioned or had just been collected from the jungles within the last few years. Thus, the collection has reached a point where it is one of the largest collections of unique blue Laelia and Cattleya species in the world.
It had been my original intention to put the collection together, then offer its use for breeding. Mr. Ernest Hetherington of Fred A. Stewart, Inc. was approached with this idea in the spring of 1964. Mr. Hetherington, instead, recommended I do the breeding and that their firm would provide support in the form of handling everything once the pod had been picked. Since there are a limited number of varieties of each species and little knowledge on the breeding of blues, there was little concern about my ignorance of this aspect. So, I became an orchid breeder!
As this is written, the first hybrids have bloomed, with both success and failure in getting what was desired. More information about each plant and its breeding habits is coming to the fore as their progeny mature. Still, much has to be done.
This is part of the "genesis" of one line of breeding. Perhaps it will continue to evolve, or it may again lie dormant as Sir Jeremiah Coleman's work has done for years. In any case, the experience has been quite rewarding, along with a lot of just plain fun.
The species are the backbone of any breeding program, the "gene bank" from which to draw, to combine and recombine. They have a proud place in any collection as the progenitors of today's fine hybrids and are often called upon to restore vigor and fertility. They are with what this presentation is primarily concerned.
Of the two genera involved, there are four species of Laelia and thirteen species of Cattleya represented in the blue collection. The number of their blue varieties are five and fourteen, respectively. These, of course, are not all the varieties available, but are among those considered the best. Nor are they all the species of these genera having blue varieties. Some are not available at this time. Others have yet to be located.
Cattleya deckeri var. coerulea
The late Mr. Milton Kaulman received this plant from Panama some years ago. When he divided it, Mr. Tom Fennell, Jr. purchased two small divisions and sent one to Mr. Ernest Hetherington of Fred A. Stewart, Inc. Only the plant at Stewart's has survived to be propagated.
Cattleya gaskelliana var. coerulea
There are several bluish clones of this species, although only one in the collection, clone 'Blue Dragon'. This clone is believed to have been jungle collected. In June of 1962, when exhibited by Mr. Charles P. Slocum, it received 80 points from the American Orchid Society judging and awarded a Certificate of Botanical Merit. In the spring of 1963, it was added to the collection by trade with Mr. Slocum.
The growing season for this species starts in January with two growth periods occurring prior to its blooming in the early summer with two or three flowers per spike. It then rests until the following year.
The sepals of the flower are white, although on one occasion they were bluish. The lip is blue-lavender with a lavender disc which extends into the throat. The eyes are very pale, while the throat is veined in gold.
Cattleya labiata var. coerulea and
Cattleya labiata var. coerulescens
Mr. Luiz Loureiro of Recife, the capital of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, shipped many of this species to the southern part of the country. He had a small private collection and kept any of the blue varieties he collected. When he had about twenty such plants, he offered them for sale to the orchid fanciers in the southern area.
There are two types of blue varieties. One is termed variety coerulescens, if the blue is present only in the lip and the sepals are white. The other is variety coerulea which has, in addition to the blue lip, blue sepals. A division of the latter variety was purchased from Mr. Waldemar Silva in 1961, but it died shortly thereafter. Mr. Silva sent another division in July of 1963 to replace the one lost. This plant has subsequently been given the clone name of 'Stewart's'. It is difficult to grow and does not root readily. The first growth produced after the flowers in the fall will mature and may bloom in the early spring. A second growth then matures before summer and remains dormant until the blooms appear in the fall. The flowers of this plant often carry part of the lip color in the ventral sepals. The sepals vary from white to medium blue. The lip is veined with blue-lavender and has yellow-gold eyes.
Cattleya mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip'
This lovely Venezuelan species is well know to literally everyone. The several blue forms, however, are fairly rare in collections in this country. Most of them have been jungle collected and the collectors or purchasers have generally given each clone a varietal name.
This species has two growing periods during the year. It is dormant from November to February. The blooms, numbering two to five per spike, open in late spring or early summer.
In 1934, and for a number of years thereafter, a jungle collector near El Tocuya, Venezuela, sent from 20 to 50 cases a year of C. mossiae to Mr. Edward A. Manda. This variety was among them. Dr. Edgar M. McPeak purchased a division of it from Mr. Manda in the forties. About 1960, Dr. McPeak gave divisions to both B. O. Bracey and Fred A. Stewart, Inc. for use in blue breeding. At this time, it also became known by two other varietal names, 'blue' and 'McPeak's'.
Tepal coloration is white, occasionally medium blue. The lip is one of the most striking of the color group. The typical C. mossiae veining coloration is a fairly dark blue. The eyes and throat are an old gold. Where the veining overlays the gold, it becomes crimson lavender.
Cattleya percivaliana var. Ondina
The peasants in the Venezuelan state of Trujillo go to the mountains and collect bagfuls of orchid plants to sell. In 1962, one such bag was sold to Mr. Roberto Stadler of Duaca. Dr. Tareisio Gimenez of Valencia bought a few of the plants from Mr. Stadler, one of which turned out to be the blue variety of the species. It was shown shortly thereafter at the National Orchid Show in Caracas under this varietal name and won an Award of Merit. Dr. Gimenez gave a division of the plant to his friend, Dr. Jose A. Ettedgui, who exhibited it at the First Valencia National Orchid Show in 1964, where it won first prize as Best National Colored Cattleya. A division of it was added to the collection in February of 1967, a gift from Dr. Ettedgui.
Cattleya schilleriana var. lowii 'Coerulescens'
A crossing of two clones of C. schilleriana yielded seed which was not very fertile. Mr. Rolf Altenburg of Petropolis sowed the seed June 29, 1959, and the first seedlings flowered late in 1964. Only about one hundred plants were raised of which about 8% have become known as clone coerulescens, due to the blue veining of the lip.
The first plant of the coerulescens clone came to the collection April 7, 1967, a gift from Mr. Waldemar Silva. Another plant was received in August of the same year, a gift from Dr. Gernot H. Bergold, but it died shortly thereafter.
Cattleya walkeriana var. coerulea and
Cattleya nobilior var. coerulea
These species are native to the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais, Goias, and Mato Grosso, where the blue forms are quite rare. In this area, the single-leaved species is C. walkeriana; while the twin-leaved one is called C. nobilior, occupying a range much further westward.
Cattleya nobilior var. coerulea
This twin-leaved plant came to the collection as C. walkeriana var. coerulea in May of 1963. Its growth habit requires little resting period, though to insure blooms, it should be given plenty of light and kept fairly dry during the winter months. Two to three growths a year are not uncommon.
The flowers, usually two to four, are borne from a leafless growth, in the spring. The sepals are a fine, medium blue which turns more lavender as the flowers age. The lip is the same color, but has a few dark veins and is splashed with a lemon-yellow disc.
Cattleya walkeriana var. coerulea has been found near Itajuba growing and flowering amongst hundreds of normally colored varieties on a bare granite cliff face. Sepals and petals are faintly tinged bluish, the lip a much deeper blue.
Cattleya warneri var. coerulea
The formation of an orchid society in the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, had a definite effect on the collecting of this species, including the blue varieties. Many of the blue clones now in cultivation are from a selfing of a plant originally owned by Mr. Mario Miranda of Belo Horizonte. A division of the original plant, subvariety 'Miranda', was purchased from Mr. Waldemar Silva in March 1963 and is the one discussed here.
The plant never rests; it is continuously growing throughout the year, with the blooms being produced in early summer from the most recently matured growth. The spike carries from two to four flowers.
Tepal coloration of the flower is medium blue. The solid lip is blue-lavender lacking the characteristic lavender disc. The eyes are pale blue with the throat a lemon yellow.
Laelia perrinii var. coerulea 'Leonildo Regado'
The Bocaina Mountain area is near Lima Duarte, Minas Gerais, Brazil. In 1956, a local orchid enthusiast of Juiz de Fora collected several plants of L. perrinii from this area. After several months, the plants bloomed. The collector noted one was of unusual color and called upon two of his friends, Mr. Curial and Mr. Leonildo Regado, to assist in its proper classification. Upon examination, the plant was given the appropriate name, variety coerulea. The two friends bought the plant and have since distributed several of its divisions. It is the only white with blue lip variety of the species known to exist.
In March of 1963, a division of this plant was added to the collection by purchase from Mr. Waldemar Silva. It subsequently died.
On October 6, 1967, a second division arrived, being sent by Mr. Silva, a gift from Mr. Regado.
Laelia pumila var. coerulea
The various blue clones of this species came from the Serra Cipo and Nova Lima localities near the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte. They were collected primarily by amateur orchid fanciers. Subsequently, some have been lost to cultivation.
The plants grow continuously, with the solitary bloom appearing in early winter and, occasionally, in early spring. When carrying a pod, it passes a growth period.
This clone, so-called because of its very dark lip, was acquired from Mr. Eddie Waras in October of 1964. The sepals are white to light blue as is the tube. The keels are a pale yellow. The forelobe of the lip is a fine, dark blue.
Laelia purpurata var. werkhauserii
The first clones of this variety were collected in 1902 or 1903 by a Mr. Werkhauser. The area in which they were found is known as the Torres Shore which is north of the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil. The varietal name was coined in England after the plant had been sent there. A number of forms are in cultivation and vary considerably. One of the original methods of classifying the white tepaled flowers was by depth of color in the veining in the lip. The bluer ones received the subvariety "No.1," while those with less were "No.2," etc.
This clone was collected in 1918. It was shown and awarded in an exposition celebrating the Fourth Century of the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was added to the collection in October, 1967, coming from Mrs. Norma Dreher, through the efforts of Mr. Waldemar Silva. The shape is good for the species and the veining of the lip is a fine, dark blue. The lip is less full than in other clones.
The finest of the Werkhauser collection rightly deserves this clonal distinction. Collected in 1904, the first division of it was sold in the 1950's for sixty thousand cruzeiros (before inflation). It was enthusiastically welcomed into the collection a few weeks after clone 'Divine', the result of a trade with Mr. Rolf Altenburg. Although somewhat lacking in shape, the veining is a deep, lead-blue.
With orchids, hybridizing has become an important aspect. Most of today's fine flowers are a result of many generations of breeding. This is not the case, however, when speaking of the blue Cattleyas, Laelias, and their hybrids. They are not necessarily recent introductions, but in the past, their lack of acceptance all but eliminated the breeding of them.
Laeliocattleya elegans was a natural hybrid of Laelia purpurata and Cattleya guttata. With the blue variety 'Werkhauserii', the Laelia parent is var. werkhauserii of the species. The hybrid plant has one leaf, occasionally two. It has two growth periods a year and may bloom at the time the growth is mature in the spring and fall. The flowers are a greenish white with the forelobe of the lip veined in a frosty blue. The disc in the lip is a dark lavender.
The case for the artificially repeated natural hybrid Lc. Schilleriana var. coerulea is much the same. Again, the Laelia parent, L. purpurata, was variety werkhauserii, and was crossed with C. intermedia var. amethystina. The lip is blue-lavender and the sepals are off-white.
The "Gatton Park Tints" produced by Sir Jeremiah Coleman were the first attempts at producing blue hybrids artificially. We have some of the original crosses still in cultivation. The most popular is C. Portia coerulea (C. bowringiana var. violacea x C. labiata var. coerulea). This cross was registered in 1907. A similar hybrid, C. Ariel coerulea (C. bowringiana var. lilacina x C. gaskelliana var. coerulescens) was registered in 1915. A more advanced hybrid, Brassolaeliocattleya Victoria coerulea, registered in 1929, has C. Portia coerulea as one of the parents and a C. Portia coerulea hybrid, Blc. Antoinette, as the other. All of these have C. Portia type shape, size, and growth habit.
Laeliocattleya Parysatis coerulea is another of Coleman's crosses. Here, C. bowringiana var. lilacina was crossed with L. praestans (pumila)'Gatton Park' and registered in 1918. The flowers are smaller but more round than C. Portia.
A hybrid was made on June 4, 1946, by Robert Doig, then manager of R. H. Gore - Orchids. The parents were C. Remy Cholet 'Gigantea' end Lc. Erica Sander 'Brilliant'. The cross was named Lc. Jericho. The flowers are large and of good shape. The surprise was that a few came out blue!
Actual blue breeding lay dormant until, in 1959, Lc. Blue Boy was shown in St. Louis, resulting in a considerable stirring of interest in the color. The hybrid was a product of Mr. Ben Bracey's genius. The parents were C. Ariel coerulea 'Bodnant's' and Lc. elegans 'Werkhauserii'. It is a generally improved C. Ariel but with darker blue coloration.
Quickly, breeders crossed literally anything that looked bluish. Few of these hybrids turned up more than an occasional bluish flower and were very discouraging. But not all the hybrids had been done without considerable forethought.
Dr. Edgar M. McPeak was interested in making a cross with the blue-lipped C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip' he had. He crossed it with C. intermedia var. amethystina on June 12, 1959, and hoped that some would come out with blue sepals. In April of 1965, the first seedling bloomed. Although most have had white sepals, many show a touch of blue. The lip is a lovely blue to blue-lavender.
Shortly after Lc. Blue Boy was introduced, three or four different strains of Lc. Schilleriana appeared. One of these produced progeny with the blue-veined lip. Although lacking in shape, it was a step in the right direction.
Mr. Bracey had not been idle after making Lc. Blue Boy. He had another cross registered in 1962 which has given some lovely blues. He used C. Ariel coerulea again, with L. purpurata var. werkhauserii to produce Lc. Mariner. In general, they look a great deal like C. Ariel coerulea but have better shape and a fuller lip.
This writer was also trying his "luck" and in 1961 crossed L. purpurata var. werkhauserii with C. Portia coerulea. The cross was registered in 1966 as Lc. Poor Paul. Overall, it has not been as successful as Lc. Mariner, lacking the shape and color.
This brings us to the current hybrids. As there is considerable interest in this color line, the blue hybrids offered are far too numerous to list and evaluate. Hopefully, they will take us further along the road to the perfection we seek.
At present, little can be said about the genetics of the blue color in the Cattleyas and Laelias. But certain things have been noted.
One of the early observations was that when a plant is crossed with a green, the results are for the colors to be more on the bluish side. Applied to blues, it is suggested that the green will enhance the blue color, as it appears to have done in Laeliocattleya Blue Boy. Many breeders are attempting to use this to their advantage, but it must be borne in mind that few greens have no genes for lavender.
Continuing on this same line of thinking, it has been observed in the breeding of blues that a lemon or greenish-yellow veining in the throat enhances the blue coloration, while orange shades turn the blue of progeny more crimson. The enhancement noted is believed a product of copigmentation.
The breeder must take into consideration the variability of the blue color under different environments. The objective is to produce a blue color which will vary little with the conditions. It is suggested that only the bluest of those plants grown under normal conditions be used as breeders in order to stabilize the color.
When breeding, it must be remembered that the blue color is extremely recessive, except with the Laelias where it is only partially dominant, at best.
Embryo culturing has proven invaluable in working with the blue color line. A number of the species and hybrids will not carry a pod to maturity, and those that do often give little viable seed. The advantages of saving time, less drain on the plant, and better germination are well worth consideration. The lengths of time noted below for the blue varieties of the species and hybrids are from the time of pollenating the flower to the removal of the pod. They are not optimal minimums but are workable and can serve as a guide to those interested in this technique.
Regarding this presentation, I hope it has served its purpose, i.e., to acquaint the unfamiliar with this color line, to provide more information on this color and the species and hybrids involved, and to provide a photographic reference to which to turn. Certainly, more blue varieties of the species will be found and numerous hybrids made. The search for the "true blue" will continue.
Hopefully, this is only the first edition of this manuscript, and as we progress, changes and updating will be necessary. May I ask you, the reader, to feel free to inquire about, critique, or add to any information presented. If you have, or run across a blue form of a species not listed, please be kind enough to notify me. Your help would be most gratefully appreciated.
(The Orchid Digest, Vol. 36, No. 6, November-December, 1972, pp. 201-204.)