Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Erythrostylum season

     It is Cymbidium erythrostylum season, at least for my plants, and this has prodded me into reviewing how erythrostylum has been used for hybridizing. This species is beautiful, elegant and exotic in appearance. My clone, a seedling of the selfed 'Magnificum', is still recovering from the heat stresses of Maryland that almost killed it. It is enjoying the San Francisco climate, but has not yet flowered, so I shall refer you to the Santa Barbara Orchid Estate's webpage for a reference pic (
      The species received its first AOS award of 89 points in 1952, a Certificate of Botanical Merit, for being “A very fine specimen of a rare and important species, very well grown and flowered”. The plant, bearing 58 flowers on ten inflorescences, was exhibited by Lambert Day. However, Cym. erythrostylum can achieve as many as thirteen flowers per inflorescence, as evidenced by the clone ‘Dale’, HCC/OSCOV (2009), exhibited by F&J Coker, Victoria, Australia.
     Cym. erythrostylum is the direct parent of at least 78 hybrids. Primary species hybrids with Cyperorchis Subgenus include insigne, parishii, mastersii, lowianum, elegans, eburneum, tracyanum, iridiodes, and i’ansonii; Jensoa Subgenus include ensifolium, kanran, and nanulum; Cymbidium Subgenus include floribundum, and chloranthum; Section Himantophyllum dayanum; Section Bigibbarium devonianum, and Section Parishiella tigrinum

Banana Split (x tigrinum)

     There are no registrations of erythrostylum hybridized with the Australian species (Subgenus Cymbidium, Section Austrocymbidium) suave, madidum or canaliculatum. I find this to be a curious phenomenon because madidum has been a very popular parent for several years due to its high flower count, superior flower arrangement along the inflorescence and warmth tolerance. Similarly, canaliculatum has proven to provide a wonderful foxtail flower arrangement and high flower count in it’s offspring.
     Instead, we find that erythrostylum is present in the background of registered Aussie hybrids only at following calculated values:
     0.4% per Art Mendoza (Nancy Miyamoto x canaliculatum; 2013), and Elma Maisack (Gone West x canaliculatum; 2012);
     0.8% per Lambert Day (madidum x Hot Line; 1994), Mad Max (Mad Magic x canaliculatum; 2009), and Tagami’s Creation (Oingo Boingo x canaliculatum; 1997);
     1.6% per Piccaninny (suave x Tethys; 1983), Mad Magic (madidum x Tethys; 1987), and Canned Magic (Tethys x canaliculatum; 2012);
     3.1% per Mad Chim (madidum x Peggy Foo; 2011);
     6.3% per Darch Avenue (Winter Fire x madidum; 2009);
     8.6% per Little Nugget (madidum x Greenwood; 1974);
     12.5% per Mad Mouse (madidum x Mighty Mouse; 2006); and
     25% per Lamorack (Charm x canaliculatum; 1969) via grandparent Charm.
     Thus, one might conclude that erythrostylum is simply unable to directly hybridize with suave, madidum or canaliculatum. Alternatively, perhaps no one has actually attempted hybridizing erythrostylum with the Australian species.

     Cym. erythrostylum does not lend itself to being a direct parent of awardable flowers. This is because most award criteria values open, flat petals and sepals; however, erythrostylum is dominant for porrect petals and a slight hooding of the dorsal sepal. Furthermore, one can often see a distracting bow-leggedness in the lateral sepals.
     When looking at the erythrostylum hybrid flowers face-on, the sepals may appear flat, as shown below:
Early Bird 'Pacific' AM/AOS.

Cym Randall Robinson. See also

Cooper Point 'Geyserland'

     However, a minor shift in perspective and one can readily see the knee bend of the lateral sepals.


     This bow-leggedness is highly variable within the same flower and between different flowers along the same inflorescence which creates a distracting lack of uniformity, as seen by the paired Cooper Point lateral sepals below.

     Only nine of the 78 F1 erythrostylum hybrids (12%) have been awarded. While this may seem like a small value, it isn’t too different than the F1 award rates from insigne (13%), tracyanum (12%) or lowianum (10%) hybrids. That being said, these award rates are nowhere near floribundum (29%), and devonianum (42%) F1 hybrids.
     Thirty-one of the F1 hybrids are parents of subsequent grexes. Charm (x Ceres) is the most prolific erythrostylum hybrid, as it is a parent of 44 grexes. Albanense is a close second, at 43 grexes. Interestingly, Redwood (x Chesham) was never awarded itself, but parented as many hybrids as Albanense. Similarly, Windsor (erythrostylum x Louis Sander) was not awarded, and is parent of only four hybrids. But, Rincon (Pearl x Windsor; 1957) is parent of 169 grexes, the most prolific of erythrostylum second-generation hybrids, 24% of which were awarded. Stanley Fouraker (Alexanderi x Early Bird) is parent of 152 grexes, 12% of which were awarded. Solana Beach (Rincon x Atlantes; 1969) has erythrostylum influence from both parents, and is parent of 142 grexes, 42% of which were awarded. 
      Cym. erythrostylum is considered to be advantageous because of its long-lasting flowers and early flowering period, more specifically October to December here in the U.S. However, based on award data, the ability of erythrostylum to promote earlier flowering is not strikingly obvious. Compare, for example, the dates the following parents and their erythrostylum offspring were awarded in the Northern Hemisphere:
  insigne (January-April)            >>   Albanense (January-February);
  Alexanderi (February-April)    >>   Atlantes (March);
  devonianum (February-May)    >>   Devon Odyssey (January-February);
  Ceres (March-May)                  >>   Charm (March);
  floribundum (March-May)         >>   Cherry Blossom (January);
  Golden Elf (July-October)        >>    Cooper Point (September); and
  Olymilum (December to April)  >>   Pearl Sachiko (January).
     My clone of Banana Split, shown above, bloomed in May, which is right within the tigrinum awards from April-June. 
     Instead, I would suggest that erythrostylum is an important parent species because it possesses the widest dorsal (2.3-3.1cm) and lateral (2.6-3.2cm) sepals than all other Cymbidium species, and it is this width that promotes 'fullness' in the flower segments. Whatever the reasons, it is clear that hybridizers continue to use erythrostylum in their breeding programs, with an average of seven hybrid registrations each decade, peaking with fourteen hybrid registrations in the 1990's. Presently, there are six registrations in this decade, but we have six more years that may well yield eight or more additional erythrostylum hybrids.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Platanthera of the High Sierras

I recently had the pleasure of spending a week backpacking in the Sierra Nevadas, hiking up and over Pine Creek Pass (elev. about 11,100 ft), down into Piute Canyon, following the John Muir Trail through Evolution Valley, up and over Muir Pass (elev. about 12,000), through LeConte Canyon, and exiting the wilderness via Bishop Pass (elev. about 12,000).

At the very beginning of the hike, alongside the trailhead's creek, I was pleasantly surprised to have spotted a Platanthera, probably Platathera leucostachys. I was planning to look for native orchids amongst the wildflowers throughout the week, but didn't think I'd come across one right at the start.

The south side of Pine Creek Pass had wildflowers in full bloom. We saw beds of lupines, paintbrush (Castilleja sp.), shooting stars (Dodecatheon sp.), columbines, sunflowers and small butterflies. As we hiked down the Piute Canyon trail, we stopped for a break during which I enjoyed a brief soak in the creek. I braced myself against a boulder to keep from being swept away in the cold water, and sunbathed afterwards to warm up and dry off. When we resumed the hike, I was feeling so refreshed and re-invigorated, being further uplifted upon passing many clusters of Platanthera (elev. about 9,200).

These coralroot orchids were serendipitously found in the shady pine duff opposite the trail where we camped for the night in Piute Canyon (elev. about 9,200).

Below are two examples of the mycotrophic ("fungus feeding"; plant Pterospora andromeda that were found, just emerging (elev. about 8,400). I find them to be so unusual from the multitude of other wildflowers in bloom simultaneously that they capture my attention for distinction.

We, nearly predictably, encountered Platanthera as we hiked by or over the creeks and seeps through and out of Evolution Valley (elev. about 10,000, again at 10,700), down Muir Pass into LeConte Canyon (elev. about 10,800, again at 9,200), and climbing out of LeConte Canyon to Bishop Pass (elev. about 9,600, 9,700, and 9,800). Below is a pic of Evolution Lake, looking southwards, with Mt. Spencer just left of center, and Mt. Huxley behind and right of Mt. Spencer.

Below is a set of pics along the Dusy Branch trail to Bishop Pass. The Dusy Branch trail was beautiful, and my favorite section of the backpacking trip.

The switchbacks encourages one to stop often to catch breath, which then allows one to scan the canyon walls, waterfalls, rock cuts, mountain tops, stone features, trees, flowers, etc… This particular stand of wildflowers (elev. about 10,300) shows the plant community, including alliums, columbines, Ranger's buttons (Sphenosciadium sp.) and lillies, in which we frequently found the Platantheras, and is close to a moving water source, in this case a hanging waterfall. 

Looking beyond the stand of wildflowers and across the nearby hanging waterfalls.

Here's a view above the stand of wildflowers, looking southwards down the Dusy Branch trail and into LeConte Canyon.

This last Platanthera pic is of a cluster found (elev. about 11,100) coming down from Bishop pass, and on our last day of the backpacking trip.

Seeing all the Platantheras made me think of how enjoyable it must be for Kobsukh in Thailand, Mohan in Sikkim, or Randall and other Australian Cymbidium enthusiasts, as they come across their respective native Cymbidium species when hiking in the parks. Perhaps one day I'll be able to get to these countries to enjoy a similar backpacking trip and see these and other native orchids in situ.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Gold Coast Cymbidium Grower's Annual Show

 Yesterday was the Gold Coast Cymbidium Grower's annual show ( The exhibits provided examples of Cymbidium species, primary hybrids, colors (combinations and concolors) across the rainbow, sepal pelorics, petal pelorics, feathered patterns, bi-color patterns, spots and stripes, flower spikes either upright, arching or pendant, fragrance, and foliage variegation.

Antique hybrids were represented by two different clones of Dryad (insigne x parishii) (1914) and Swallow (Alexanderi x Pauwelsii) (1916), whose flower conformations could be compared with a modern, more complex hybrid such as the first bloom seedling of a presently unregistered (Joan's Charisma x (Lone Star x Winter Wonder)), whereby Joan's Charisma represents at least eleven generations, Lone Star represents at least six generations, and Winter Wonder represents at least nine generations of hybridizing.

One example to illustrate the differences between ploidy levels, 2N vs 4N, was provided by two different plants of floribundum 'Alpine' to be compared with floribundum 'Alpine Giant', a tetraploid variant of 'Alpine' which received a bronze medal by the Cymbidium Society of America (B/CSA), exhibited by Jeff Trimble.

Barry Zimmerman exhibited a wonderfully grown clone of the primary hybrid Scallywag (floribundum x suave).

I thought the show provided a good study on the variations between different species and hybrid clones. There were three different, separately exhibited, clones of the lowianum species: 'Green Oaks' (green segments with red V lip), 'James Drysdale' (chartruese yellow segments with red V lip), and 'concolor' (chartreuse green with yellow V lip). I counted over thirteen different (x devonianum) hybrids, including Devon Gala 'New Horizon' (below), which allowed the public to see what traits devonianum confers onto its offspring. Similarly, there were six different (x Fifi) hybrids, evidencing the recent popularity of Fifi itself and as a desirable parent. Barry Zimmerman's display provided yet another educational opportunity with, side-by-side, three different Vogelsang hybrids: (x Candy Floss), (x Brandy Wine), and (x Via Arcadia Rincon).

As for variations within a grex, I counted four different clones of Memoria Amelia Earhart, three of Dorothy Stockstill, and three of Street Tango.

Below is a nicely grown specimen plant of a second generation, complex devonianum Miniature cymbidium hybrid: Nickelodean Queen.

Variations of color combinations and flower development were represented by the bi-color Tower of Fire 'Sunset Flame', the sepal peloric Freaking Flame 'Windermere', the petal peloric Hot Devon 'Bird of Paradise' (not shown), and the feathered Pia Borg 'Splash', AM/AOS.

This curiosity is Pepper's Fire 'Carnival', which is somewhere in between a feathered and a petal peloric.

And finally, this is Cattleya amethystoglossa 'Sea God', HCC/AOS. It caught my attention because the plant had two inflorescences with 23 and 24 flowers each on a well-grown plant. As of today, there have been 65 American Orchid Society (AOS) awards to C. amethystoglossa, including 6 cultural awards, 17 highly commended certificates (HCC) and 40 awards of merit (AM). The 'Sea God' clone had been awarded by the  back in 1979; however, since then, there have been only three awards to amethystoglossa having as many as, or a slightly higher, flower count. However, this clone might not be elevated to an AM today because of the advances in the standards for flower conformation, whereby the judges are typically looking for flat flowers with wide segments, e.g. increased petal width which now averages above 3.6cm, and increased natural spread which now averages above 8.5cm.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cym. Chocolate Chip Mint

This is my first blooming of Cymbidium Chocolate Chip Mint (sinense x Tiger Moth), a gift from John Dunkelberger ( This plant is a true Miniature Cymbidium because it is the product of all miniature cymbidium species, to wit, sinense, tigrinum and floribundum (aka pumilum). It produces fragrant flowers, per sinense and tigrinum. The 'type and breeding', of course, results in porrect petals per all of the parent species.

As for flower count, this is an interesting mathematics exercise to calculate the geometric mean (the square root of (A x B)), and thus relate the actual value with what one might expect from such a hybrid.

The awarded [plant] has as many as #, average of #, flowers per inflorescence:
tigrinum has as many as 8, average of 4; 
floribundum has as many as 46, average of 27;
sinense has as many as 21, average of 12;
Tiger Moth has as many as 21, average of 17; and
Chocolate Chip Mint has as many as 13, average of 12.

So, if one calculates the geometric mean flower count per species alone, one might expect, per the respective maximums about 20 flowers per inflorescence ((square root of (46x8)=19) x 21) and per the respective averages about 11 flowers per inflorescence ((square root of (27x4)=10) x 12).

So, if one calculates the geometric mean flower count per the Tiger Moth parent, one might expect, per the respective maximums about 21 flowers per inflorescence (square root of (21x21)=21), and per the respective averages about 12 flowers per inflorescence ((square root of (12x12)=12).

My first bloom plant has six flowers and one bud on a single inflorescence, so this inflorescence is substantially less than the previously awarded clones of this grex, as well as what one would expect from the geometric means. Perhaps next year, now that the plant is becoming established from the prior move across the country, it will produce more flowers per inflorescence. Nevertheless, I find this to be a wonderful Mini Cym hybrid, and a definite keeper.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cym. wenshanense

A new seedling of Cymbidium wenshanense, originally sourced from Andy's Orchids (, flowered this past weekend.

According to Du Puy and Cribb (The Genus Cymbidium, 2007), Cym. wenshanense was discovered in southern China, south-eastern Yunnan. The flower form is strongly reminiscent of the well-known Cym. erythrostylum; however, the plant habit is quite compact, as evidenced by the small pseudobulbs, such that when it is out of bloom, one might even mistake it for Jensoa section species. The flowers are delightfully fragrant, which is also different from Cym. erythrostylum, and I love the striated lip markings.

A quick search using the RHS website ( shows that, at this time, Cym. wenshanense as only been used a few times for hybridizing:
i) Ying Xiang Lan (x tracyanum) 1998;
ii) Leek (wilsonii x ) 1998; and
iii) Hengduan's Isabell (tortisepalum x ) 2010.

Given it's compact habit, this will be a nice species to use for breeding miniature cymbidiums. The relatively large flower size in relation to the small plant may challenge one's definition of 'miniature', depending upon whether one uses the flower size, as opposed to plant habit, as the determining factor.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Peninsula Orchid Society Show

This weekend was my first time attending the enjoyable Peninsula Orchid Society's Show. The showroom perimeter was full with vendor, society and individual exhibits, of which only two exhibits are shown below, while the center tables were filled with individual society member's orchids.

Exhibit by Peninsula Orchid Society members, I believe.

Cymbidium Green Sour (Katydid x Lunagrad) specimen plant, exhibit upper right, which received several show ribbons and trophies, as well as an AOS award.

Cym. Vallambrosa (Doris x tracyanum) 'Stirling', exhibit upper left.

Cymbidium Cranberry Velvet (Nancy Hatsuko Ikeda x Ruby Eyes) 'Gidget', exhibit lower center

Cymbidium Betty Court (Canterbury x devonianum) 'Gloria Bygdnes', exhibit lower left

Exhibit by Weegie Caughlan

Hazel Faye 'Cinnabar', HCC/AOS, exhibit upper right

Kirby Lesh 'Cinnabar' S/CSA, AM/AOS, exhibit upper left

Peter Dawson 'Grenadier' (Lunagrad x Solana Beach) G/CSA, AM/AOS, FCC/NZOS, exhibit upper center

Strathdon 'Cooksbridge Fantasy' B/CSA, AM/AOS, exhibit lower left

Below are three beautiful examples of orchids exhibited by Tom Perlite of Golden Gate Orchids. The Masdevalias are siblings of O'Brien's Passion: 'Ablaze' in red was awarded an AM/AOS, and 'Golden Sunset' in orange. I'm mighty tempted to buy one of these....

Here is the wonderful Oda. (Fort Point x Picotee). Wow-factor, indeed! 
Can you imagine how stunning a Cymbidium with such a bold and colorful picotee would be?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Climate

Growing Cymbidiums back in the DC region had its challenges. The summer nights were hot and humid. The winter lows were too cold, necessitating protection either in a heated greenhouse or being brought inside the house and kept under lights. Below is a graph of the 2012 temperatures from a weather station closest to my previous home. Heat- and warmth-tolerant Cymbidiums grew well outside for most of the year; whereas, the cool-growing Cyms melted in the summer heat.

Now that I'm back in San Francisco, one would think it will be much easier to grow the Cyms. However, San Francisco has a multitude--by some reports over seventeen-- of different microclimates, illustrated below.

My simple goal for the Cyms since their move is to just survive and produce new growths. Most are complying, but I think I've lost two or three plants. For myself, the goal is to learn about my new microclimate and its changes throughout the year. Below is an equivalent graph of the 2012 temperatures per the weather station closest to my present locale. You can see that the temperatures are fairly even throughout the year. Given that my local temps infrequently go above 70F, I no longer have a strong need for heat-tolerant Cymbidiums, and I'll be curious if my existing heat- and warmth-tolerant Cyms will flower for me in their new environment.

I think the more challenging variable is managing light levels due to the abundance of fog. The graph below illustrates how much light levels change from day-to-day. If I lived in one of the sunnier microclimates just east of my home, the April thru August daily light levels would average about 2000 to 3000(!) watts/m2 higher. The peak above 8000 watt/m2 in early June represents a sunny day, and indicates just how much light I'm losing to the fog the rest of the summer season.

Below is a graph of light readings on a sunny day: a nice smooth curve. Such a rare occurrence here.

Below is a graph of light readings on a foggy day. You can see how variable the light levels can be throughout a single day.

Here is another example of a foggy day, with the fog burning off late morning, but yielding a foggy afternoon variably interrupted with sunshine.

Here the fog burned off late morning and yielded a relatively sunny afternoon.

It is going to be a challenge to provide adequate shading for the Cyms when they are exposed to direct sun but also allow for sufficient lighting when under fog. There are already some sun-burnt leaves here and there while I find the right balance of shading and the plants acclimate to their new environment.