The continuing interest, response and queries regarding the blue Cattleyas and Laelias have been heartening. Much of the correspondence has been regarding the outcome of the crosses and information on breeding. Therefore, I will try to write down most of the information I've heard, read, and noted from my observations of the seedlings as they come into bloom.
The oldest recent hybrid is that involving C. Ariel coerulea (C. bowringiana var. lilacina x C. gaskelliana var. coerulescens), namely Lc. Blue Boy (C. Ariel coerulea 'Bodnant's' x Lc. elegans 'werkhauserii'). In this hybrid, we found some variability. Small, narrow-petaled varieties and an occasional lavender colored one appeared; however, these never reached the market, being culled at first blooming. In general, however, most were as good if not better in shape than either parent, and of a better blue color. This enhancement (1) came about through the use of Lc. elegans 'werkhauserii' which has greenish sepals (from the C. leopoldii [guttata] parent) and carried through into the progeny. With the blue color in the sepals from C. Ariel coerulea a deeper blue resulted.
The second major contribution from C. Ariel coerulea was the cross with L. purpurata var. werkhauserii, named Lc. Mariner. The outcome was a fairly uniform group of seedlings having flowers of good form, not much larger than C. Ariel coerulea, however. The color was not as deep as in Lc. Blue Boy due to the lack of the enhancing green being absent in the other parent.
Continued breeding with C. Ariel coerulea produced C. Sapphire (the result crossed with C. labiata var. coerulea), the flowers of which are generally larger and better shaped than the C. Ariel parent. The color again did not reach that in Lc. Blue Boy but is more consistent from year to year.
Before going on to Lc. Blue Boy as a progenator, it would be best to consider C. Portia coerulea (C. bowringiana var. violacea x C. labiata var. coerulea) directly after C. Ariel coerulea. Since the two are very much alike in parentage, it is of interest to note what, if any, differences their progeny show, especially since C. Portia coerulea is much more readily available. Fortunately, two hybrids have been made, one of which I am very familiar with, the other I take from information and implication by Wm. Kirch (2).
The first hybrid is Lc. Poor Paul (C. Portia coerulea x L. purpurata var. werkhauserii). The outcome has been nearly two distinct groups of seedlings (3). On the one hand, those favoring the C. bowringiana parent (of C. Portia coerulea) came out in the lavender shades, while those favoring the C. labiata parent came with light sepals and blue lavender lips. This indicates to me that the C. bowringiana parent used in C. Portia coerulea carried more lavender than the one used for C. Ariel coerulea.
The second hybrid is C. Big Ben (C. Portia coerulea x C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip'*). From Mr. Kirch's comments, I take it that the hybrid is similar to that of C. Sapphire. The C. mossiae has imparted shape and size. Vigor, though not mentioned previously, seems similar to that experienced in C. Sapphire. Again, the color is not as good as in Lc. Blue Boy as explained above. No lavender shades are reported, however.
*In searching for information on the background of the blue C. mossiae clones, I found that this variety came originally from Dr. Edgar M. McPeak. It carried the varietal name 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip.' Divisions were sent to Mr. Bracey and to Fred A. Stewart, Inc. The one from the Bracey collection was used under the varietal name 'blue', while Stewart's had started using it under the varietal name of 'McPeak's'. I feel the original varietal distinction given by Dr. McPeak should be carried on.
Cattleya Portia coerulea is capable of producing fine blue progeny, especially in combinations as that with C. mossiae. I feel C. Ariel coerulea has an even greater potential, however (4). It has shown generally higher quality flowers in its offspring, with minimal lavender tones. Even colored, blue-tepaled progeny are the usual case. Fertility is also greater, which is an important point when breeding.
Perhaps the true "test" of this hypothesis will be when the cross of C. Ariel coerulea x C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip' reaches flowering size and direct comparisons can be made.
Going on to Lc. Blue Boy, numerous hybrids have been made, including selfings. Unfortunately, I can only report on two, x Lc. Parysatis coerulea and a selfing. With Lc. Parysatis coerulea, the results have been variable, though in the blue shades. Many variations in shape and form are especially true. With the selfing, the color is in the blue shades and, although not as wide, there has been similar variation. Wide variation will undoubtedly be characteristic of Lc. Blue Boy as a parent. Less can be expected when it is used with the species. Its primary importance is, of course, the enhancing greenish color it carries and passes on, a unique factor at this time.
This is a good opportunity to quickly discuss Lc. Parysatis coerulea. It has been fairly well covered in two previous articles (5,6). The conclusions drawn are that there will be variation in the progeny, though not generally wide, some lavender shades will appear, and the size and lip configuration will favor this parent. It is worth noting that crossed with C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip', though the blue color was diluted with lavender, the shape was very good.
The first major use of C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip' was with C. intermedia var. coerulea to produce the hybrid C. Undine. The outcome was sepals white, occasionally tinged blue, and medium blue veined, somewhat frilly," lips. Shape in the petals and the lip were considerably improved over C. intermedia. Kirch unfortunately does not relate what influence it had in the lip of C. Big Ben. It had little influence in the lip when crossed with Lc. Parysatis coerulea. The C. mossiae parent is a vigorous grower, has unstable color in the sepals (being white one year and blue the next), and a fine blue veined lip. The shape is good and it is very fertile.
To draw any conclusions of comparability to the other large labiate Cattleyas, another hybrid with at least one parent in common is necessary. In this case, it is the hybrid C. Holdenii (C. intermedia var. amethystina x C. warneri var. coerulea 'Miranda') which gives us additional information. This C. warneri does not have as good shape as the C. mossiae; however, the lip is nearly a solid blue and the color of the sepals is a stable medium light blue. Size is about the same. Cattleya Holdenii has come with definitely narrower petals in relationship to the parent. The lip is very similar to that of C. warneri. The flowers are generally more symmetrical than in C. Undine. The color of the lip is very close to that of C. warneri) and solid; however, the sepals are white.
My conclusions are that C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip' will push for good shape, has good color to give, will influence the lip shape, and of course will cause the lip to be veined. Tepal coloration will be primarily dependent on the other parent for stability.
Using C. warneri var. coerulea 'Miranda', shape in general will be only slightly influenced, shape of the lip will predominate and its color passed on readily. The stabilizing factor being dominant, as hoped (7), is questionable at this point.
Laeliocattleya Schilleriana (C. intermedia var. amethystina x L. purpurata var. werkhauserii) has not been much discussed since little has been done with it. One hybrid, with Lc. Parysatis coerulea, came out poorly as for shape and form. The lip, surprisingly, was a very good tone of blue, superior to either parent. Laeliocattleya Schilleriana has also been used with L. purpurata var. werkhauserii, a backcross to one of its parents. The shape was only slightly improved and the lip darkened. As a breeder of future merit, it seems worthless.
Laelia purpurata var. werkhauserii has come into the picture several times, with C. Ariel coerulea, C. Portia coerulea, C. intermedia and Lc. Schilleriana. Several clones have been used which causes difficulty in analysis, since there is considerable variability among them. In the combinations with the first two mentioned, fairly good, full-lipped forms were used. The last two may have had the superba clone as the parent, since the color of the lips is darker and the lip size reduced. A cross of the superba clone with a good form of the variety (werkhauserii) in Brazil has not produced the deep color of superba, but has given some fine dark forms with much nicer lips. Apparently the deep color of superba will not show itself completely in the first generation hybrids, though it will darken the color somewhat. The lip will be considerably reduced in size.
Cattleya labiata var. coerulea can be examined by looking at C. Portia coerulea and C. Sapphire. I think that C. labiata will work for improving shape and size when used with the smaller types, has good color to pass on, but is unstable like C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip' and will depend on the other parent for stability. The veining in the lip will be apparent but not strong. Combined in C. Sapphire, it provided more blue color, enhanced the lip (as it did in C. Portia coerulea), and generally improved the size. Though the C. labiata var. coerulea clone used in making C. Sapphire is not a vigorous grower, these progeny are quite vigorous.
That covers the observations and conclusions drawn in general. However, many of the questions have dealt with the "yet-to-be proven" parents. Those which I consider of major importance are the blue forms of C. gaskelliana, C. percivaliana, C. warscewiczii (syn. gigas), L. pumila and C. leuddemanniana. Laelia pumila is also considered for use in breeding the unusual and smaller types (8).
Cattleya gaskelliana 'Blue Dragon' is being used with a number of the other labiate Cattleyas and hopefully the first seedlings will bloom this year (with C. warneri var. coerulea as the other parent). The lip color will probably be a dominant factor with other blues. Shape will be passed with only general improving qualities. Nothing in itself appears to be outstanding about it; however, in proper combinations (with C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip) we should get some very good progeny.
Cattleya percivaliana 'Ondina' holds a promise for pulling bloom time into January. It carries some lavender in the sepals, but this may provide the stabilizing effect needed with some of the others. The shortened lip will probably influence its progeny as it does in its lavender counterparts. The veining of the lip will also be imparted. Shape is good and may help in this area also.
Cattleya warscewiczii (syn. gigas) 'Helena de Ospina' and var. azul have lovely lip configurations to give. Variety 'Helena de Ospina', in my collection, has not developed the color I had expected, perhaps because of cultural problems. Both varieties are being used as parents with the other parent being identical. We should be able to determine with which to continue breeding as these seedlings reach maturity and bloom.
Laelia pumila var. coerulea 'Werkhauserii' has considerable potential both in the color it has in the lip and the flatness it can impart. Although normally white in the sepals, the lip is a solid dark blue. In breeding, general size will be reduced, with the lip even more so (of the other parent). The dark coloration of the lip is not expected to come through completely in the first generation, but it will probably darken the color and provide good genetic material for further breeding.
Cattleya leuddemanniana 'Senora Milan' is frustrating and depressing! My efforts to acquire it have yet to be successful. From the slide I have received, its potential of giving very fine shape and full, dark, solid lip color is one which hopefully we can exploit soon. With C. Ariel coerulea, I think it could produce many A. M. quality seedlings. In itself, it is very lovely.
Of course, the target in this breeding line is unquestionable blue color, having little instability, in all sizes and shapes. We have a great deal of material to work with, really. The drawback is, most certainly, limited space, especially for strictly experimental hybrids which are the primary combinations of enhancing and other color factors for further work. However, we have come a long way the last few years and the next should prove even more interesting and fulfilling.
(1) Whitlow, Carson E. Stabilization and Enhancement of Blue Color in Cattleyas. American Orchid Society Bulletin,39:343344. 1970
(2) Kirch, Wm. Some Thoughts on Breeding Blue Cattleyas. The Orchid Digest, 34:103-104. 1970.
(3) Whitlow, Carson E. From the Beginning-Blue Cattleyas. The Orchid Digest, 32:102-106. 1968.
(4) . Cattleya Ariel coerulea-the Keystone of Blue Breeding? American Orchid Society Bulletin, 39:496-498. 1970.
(5) . Notes on Breeding Laeliocattleya Parysatis coerulea. The Orchid Digest, 31:119. 1967.
(6) . Notes on Breeding Laeliocattleya Parysatis coerulea. The Orchid Digest, 33:317-318. 1969.
(7) . The Large Blue Cattleya Hybrids. The Orchid Digest, 33:261-262. 1969.
(8) . An Adventure in Blue. The Orchid Digest, 33:317. 1969.
(The Orchid Digest, Vol. 34, No. 10, December, 1970, pp. 292-295.)