Most of the present-day blue Cattleya hybrids have Cattleya bowringiana in their pedigrees; therefore, most of the flowers are small to medium size. With the increasing interest in this color, breeders have sought out the more desirable of the large blue species. This article deals more in detail with these plants and their use in breeding.
Cattleya warneri var. coerulea has a very stable color and is essentially the same from season to season. It is a clear medium blue with a darker solid lip. No lavender influence is apparent in the new growth. It breeds readily and is a robust, prolific grower.
The most well-known of the blue species is Cattleya labiata var. coerulea, of which there are numerous clones. These vary in color and shape. The one in this writer's collection has a lovely deep blue midrib and a lavender disc in the lip. The sepals are white or shade toward light blue. It has not been subjected to high light intensity to see if any color IS apparent in the growth, but in its progeny (x C. Ariel coerulea) only a few show lavender influence.
In general, Cattleya mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip' is of fine form for the species. It shows no lavender in the growth, though it does lack color stability. It will bloom a lovely medium blue with darker veining in the lip one year, and be nearly white with little veining in the lip the next. It is very easy to grow, as are its seedlings.
Cattleya gaskelliana 'Blue Dragon' generally blooms with white sepals and a dark midrib in the lavender-disced lip. The forelobe is a blue to blue-lavender. This plant has bloomed with blue sepals, so again we demonstrate the lack of stability. It is a very good, prolific grower. The new growths show definite signs of lavender.
Cattleya trianae 'Blue Bird' has definite lavender coloration of the growths and has been breeding lavender. It is expected to produce some blues when combined with the others. The flowers are well shaped, blue-lavender with a darker lip. This color varies from year to year. This is a difficult plant to grow and the trait is apparent in a number of its progeny.
Several hybrids have been made within this group recently. Among them are C. Alcimeda (C. gaskelliana 'Blue Dragon' x C. labiata var. coerulea), C. Bobby Howarth (C. gaskelliana 'Blue Dragon' x C. trianae 'Blue Bird'), C. Intertexta (C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip' x C. warneri var. coerulea), C. Mrs. Myra Peeters (C. gaskelliana 'Blue Dragon' x C. warneri var. coerulea) and C. Veriflora (C. labiata var. coerulea x C. trianae 'Blue Bird'). Most of these are presently in the early stages of growth.
If the theory on the lack of color in the growth is proven valid, i.e., that the better-colored blues of the cross will come from those seedlings exhibiting the least amount of color in the growth when grown under high light intensity, preliminary segregation of seedlings can save considerable space for the breeder and give him a better chance of obtaining the color he desires. This would be of particular advantage when using C. trianae 'Blue Bird' as a parent.
As for each parent, the hopes are as follows: C. warneri will have a stabilizing effect on the color. Clarity of color from C. warneri and C. mossiae will help remove the lavender disc which appears in the lip of the others. The dark blue midrib in the lip of C. gaskelliana and C. labiata will tend to darken the lip color. Cattleya trianae will give finer form and solid lip.
We are looking forward to these primary hybrids with high hopes, but even more so to being able to breed secondaries, where even greater recombinations are possible.
(American Orchid Society Bulletin, Vol.36, No.1, January, 1967, pp. 23-24. The Orchid Digest, Vol.33, No.8, October, 1969, pp.261-262.)