Several years ago, when articles on breeding blue cattleyas first began appearing, there was considerable speculation as to what exactly the outcome would be. And, as more species-breeding material became available, the possibilities were further compounded.
In this presentation, two factors need to be kept in mind. First, due to my considerable traveling in the last few years, I have been unable to see very large blocks of seedlings come into bloom. Those which I have seen are considered as representative of the cross.
Secondly, the parents are those clones I've described previously (1) and the hybrids are progeny of these clones.
The majority of the initial set of hybrids have now flowered and much more concrete information on the breeding is available. We will discuss the hybrids in respect to the parents; thus, those characteristics having major impact can be examined. Of primary interest, of course, are those hybrids giving us good blues. Though we are using some hybrids in this line of color development, they are considered as part of the first phase since their parent clones are generally not available to determine their interaction with the parents we are using.
Laeliocattleya Parysatis coerulea (C. bowringiana var. lilacina x L. praestans [pumila] 'Gatton Park') figures heavily in the early breeding with large cattleyas (2, 3). Many seedlings showed sign of aneuploidy or other genetic difficulties. The seedlings had considerable variation in shape and ranged in color through the lavenders to the blue tones. Size was in the 3-4" range. Some have been quite good.
Cattleya Ariel coerulea (C. bowringiana var. lilacina x C. gaskelliana var. coerulescens), principally the variety Bodnant's, also made a major impact as it was used to make Lc. Blue Boy (C. Ariel coerulea x Lc. elegans 'werkhauserii'). It has continued to provide fine, medium-sized blues when used with the larger blue cattleyas (4). An occasional lavender may appear in the progeny, but very seldom. Growth is relatively uniform in the progeny.
Selfings of Lc. Blue Boy have not proven of exceptional value, but with other parents, good shape and clear coloring are the general rule. Often the lavender bar in the lip is entirely absent. Size is determined primarily by this parent.
Laeliocattleya Schilleriana (blue strain) (C. intermedia x L. purpurata) has not proven worthwhile as a parent. There is usually a considerable amount of lavender in the lip and the shape is relatively poor, though the size is generally on the larger end.
Laeliocattleya elegans 'werkhauserii' (C. leopoldii [guttata] x L. purpurata) has given very interesting results. Generally, the shape is on the open side, and the size is medium to medium large. In Lc. Dellensis (Lc. elegans 'werkhauserii' x L. purpurata var. werkhauserii 'superba'), some extremely fine indigo-lipped, white to off-white tepaled progeny have occurred. One had a touch of lavender in the petals. In Lc. At Dusk (Lc. elegans 'werkhauserii' x C. walkeriana var. nobilior 'coerulea') rather interesting things are happening with off-white sepals and fascinating shapes. Lip coloration is of good blue shades. Lavender shades are occasionally appearing in both crosses, as is the lavender bar in the lip.
For breeding the cooler-growing blues, L. anceps var. veitchiana has been used. It does not have as deep a blue color in the lip as the others but does provide enough for a good blue color to come though. Laelia Amoena (L. anceps var. veitchiana x L. pumila var. coerulea 'werkhauserii') varied in petal color from white to pastel blue. Lip color has been shades of blue lavender to very nice blues. Quite often the progeny will have lavender in the lip from the L. anceps parent. A more open shape is also imparted in general.
Laelia pumila var. coerulea 'werkhauserii' has proven to be one of the finer blue breeders. It has some influence on sepal color but this is usually determined by the other parent. The lips of the progeny are usually shortened but are of a fine, dark, solid blue. Petal width is generally reduced, as is the number of flowers. There is an occasional feathering of the lip color in the petals which is quite attractive. Perhaps the finest hybrid to date having this as one parent is Lc. Lorna Dene Whitlow (L. pumila var. coerulea 'werkhauserii' x C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip'). Here, some exceptionally fine blue-tepaled forms have appeared, having superb lip coloration, shape and size.
Laelia purpurata var. werkhauserii 'superba' as a parent, usually results in flowers with sepals slightly twisted, and with the shortened lip of this clone. Color of the lip has been very nice and generally dark blue, while sepals are white to blue tinted.
Cattleya walkeriana var. nobilior 'coerulea' has imparted the shape one generally recognizes as typical of the breeding. Some lovely shades of blue varying from light to medium are appearing. Generally the concolor characteristic of this clone comes through. In the discussion that follows, C. walkeriana is considered in the same type category as C. warneri.
Cattleya Undine (C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip' x C. intermedia var. coerulea) has given some very nicely-shaded semicoeruleas. The sepals are white, occasionally a pastel, but the lips are a very pleasing shade of blue. Because of the light coloration in the sepals further breeding with this hybrid is being discontinued. Also based on these results, hybrids using C. Holdenii (C. warneri var. coerulea 'Miranda' x C. intermedia var. amethystina) are not being made.
The blue unifoliates will be discussed as a group. All generally give good shape. Cattleya gaskelliana 'Blue Dragon' usually suppresses some of the sepal coloration. Both C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip' and C. percivaliana 'Ondina' are strong for the orange throat with the veining overlaying the region, the result being crimson lavender in that area. The latter, however, tends to shorten the lip considerably. Cattleya warneri var. coerulea 'Miranda' tends to stabilize the sepal coloration and draw blue color into the sepals. The C. labiata var. coerulea 'Stewart's' used has a peloria which occasionally shows up in the progeny; however, its good color potential and fall blooming habit outweigh this drawback.
Perhaps the most important of the results is what appears to be a segregation of two different types of blues in this group, one characterized by C. warneri var. coerulea 'Miranda' end the other by C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip'. In the hybrid of the two plants, i.e., C. Intertexta, coloration has been somewhat lighter than would be expected. Likewise, in C. Peregrine (C. mossiae 'Reineckiana, Blue Lip' x C. percivaliana 'Ondina') the same occurs. A segregation of the species into two types has been made and is noted below. These are preliminary results and are presented only for discussion.
If a Type I species is crossed with another Type I, the results should be as good or better than one or the other parent in respect to color. Likewise, utilizing a Type I hybrid (Type I x Type I) with another Type I hybrid or species should do the same. A relatively uniform coloration would probably develop after several generations. In Type II breeding, much the same would likely result.
However, if a Type I species or hybrid is crossed with a Type II species or hybrid, coloration is lighter than can be expected from either parent. This we will consider a Type III hybrid.
If the theory of two type of blues holds true, then by crossing a Type III hybrid with another Type III hybrid, a much wider range of blue coloration may be possible. The darkest of these would then be utilized with other Type III hybrids to develop a line of blues which approach the full, blue color potential.
A Type III hybrid with either a Type I or Type II species or hybrid will give a wider range in blue coloration. However, this should not result in as dark a blue coloration as in the Type III line breeding. The outcome expected would be similar to half being a hybrid of the same type, either Type I or Type II, the other half being similar to a hybrid of the other type.
One hybrid worth noting is Bc. Digbyano-warneri (B. digbyana x C. warneri var. coerulea 'Miranda'). The progeny of this hybrid have had nice lavender shades as expected. The importance of this hybrid is the incorporation into the blue line of breeding of some of the green color of B. digbyana. One other hybrid is currently projected using a clone of this hybrid, a backcross to C. warneri var. coerulea. From the results we should be able to make some conclusions on the number of genes involved in the production of blue color and if the green coloration of B. digbyana can be used for enhancement (5) of the blue coloration.
The first major generation of blues has become a reality. The second is taking shape. Excited as we were with the first hybrids, we now look with as much, if not more excitement at the possibility of even finer blues to come.
(1) Whitlow, Carson E. Fundamentals in Breeding for Blue Cattleya and Laeliocattleya Hybrids with Recent Notes on New Developments. The Orchid Digest, 36:201-204. 1972.
(2) Notes on Breeding Laeliocattleya Parysatis coerulea. The Orchid Digest, 31:119. 1967.
(3) Notes on Breeding Laeliocattleya Parysatis coerulea. The Orchid Digest, 33:317-318. 1969.
(4) Cattleya Ariel coerulea-the Keystone of Blue Breeding? American Orchid Society Bulletin, 39:496-498. 1970.
(5) Stabilization and Enhancement of Blue Color in Cattleyas. American Orchid Society Bulletin, 39:343-344. 1970.
(American Orchid Society Bulletin, Vol.45, No.1, January, 1976, pp. 43-47.)