Tuesday, March 20, 2012

2012 CSA Congress

This year's Cymbidium Society of America Congress, concurrent with the SBIOS (prior post), was another quality symposium. There were two Paphiopedilum talks, presented by Masayoshi Takahashi of Tokyo Orchid Nursery and Gail Schwart of the American Orchid Society; three Cymbidium talks, presented by Collin Gillespie, Dr. Randall Robinson on behalf of Dr. Julian Coker, and Kevin Hipkins; and two, what I will categorize as conservation talks, presented by Dr. Lauren Coker and Dr. Holger Perner.

Masayoshi (a.k.a. Ma-Chan) Takahashi is following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather in regards to line-breeding of the Paph. bellatulum and Paph. rothschildianum, thereby representing over 40 years of orchid husbandry. He has presently achieved at least a fourth generation of bellatulum line-breeding from the original wild collected plant, improving upon both coloration and size. Ma-Chan described some of the history of Paph. rothschildianum 'Perfection', FCC/AOS, GM/JOGA, which was chosen from 50 blooming seedlings from amongst 2500 blooming seedlings from amongst 4000 potted seedlings of Paph. rothschildianum 'Millais' x 'Val' (50/2500/4000). Other examples of this Paph. rothschildianum line-breeding were present in his display in the SBIOS. I had the pleasure of clerking for the CSA judging team that evaluated the Paph's of the TON exhibit, and appreciated the discussion of these improved Paph species and hybrids.

Gail Schwartz discussed the present AOS standards for judging Paph. charlesworthii clones, in light of the line-breeding to improve different color, size and shape characteristics. Because of the breadth and depth of her presentation, Gail's talk was somewhat overwhelming to some audience members. However, I thought it was fairly representative of what AOS student judges need to go through to become knowledgeable of the subject matter. Her talk is to be published in the AOS Orchids magazine as a three-part series.

Gail's talk spurred discussion later in the Congress session pertaining to the arbitrary selection manner regarding the practice of species line-breeding. While certain traits may be selected for and enhanced, there is a loss of other traits (syn. genetic diversity) simply because the person who is doing the selection has established an arbitrary key of 'desirable' and 'undesirable' traits. To put it another way, and to paraphrase the issues Dr. Robinson raised, if one is selecting for Great Danes of the dogs, then one is also selecting against those genes that give rise to the Chihuahuas. I'm not a fan (the essence of arbitrariness!) of Chihuahuas, so let's change this example to.... Corgies. I think they're cute. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Now consider the Great Danes and/or Chihuahuas and/or Corgies to the wolves, from which all domestic dogs are derived. Should we really consider the line-bred, human-derived 'species' as legitimate representatives of the species found in nature?

I had the real pleasure of visiting with Collin and Karen Gillespie over several days during the Show. What a lovely couple! Collin described his cultural practices to achieve the Cymbidium flower quality for which he is well-known. Collin described paying attention to light and temperature requirements to maximize plant growth during that part of the season, but also the use of an aerated drip system to control (efficient) water/fertilizer use. Aeration may be achieved by use of an air-pump, an air-stone and/or H2O2 to oxygenate the water.

Kevin Hipkins of Royale Orchids gave the Congress' evening plenary talk. Kevin is an entertaining and colorful person! He described his hybridizing programs using Cym. erythraeum and Cym. tracyanum to achieve new colorforms within hybrids. I particularly liked Cym. Chocolat Honeycomb. Here's a conceptual pic of this hybrid. Think chocolate petals and sepals surrounding the honey-colored, tracyanum lip. Are you salivating? Shortened breath intake, with excitement? Now you know I felt when I saw Kevin's slide of this Cymbidium hybrid. De-lish!

Dr. Randall Robinson presented a slideshow of Dr. Julian Coker's orchid collection. There appears to be a multitude of high quality orchids in the Coker collection, and many of the Cymbidiums shown were stunning. It appears that many Cymbidiums of the Coker collection are one-of-the kind and/or rarely seen historical hybrids, so it is important to get many of these preserved for posterity.

Dr. Robinson mentioned that Dr. Coker is one of his orchid mentors, and the importance of having such. So here, I feel the need to acknowledge both appreciation and gratitude for my orchid mentors and friends, which include Dr. Robinson and George Hatfield, and many others, including members of the Torrence Cymbidium Society who make my visits to the Santa Barbara show such a fun vacation.

Speaking of conservation, Dr. Holger Perner described his efforts to develop a breeding program within the Huanglong Nature Reserve in China to preserve the local Paphiopedilums and Cypripediums via in situ mass seedling production, and hopefully thereby reduce the practice of collecting wild species. Dr. Perner showed some beautiful slides of the region and terrain in which he studies.

The Hengduan Mountain Biotechnology (of which Dr. Perner is a partner) exhibit in SBIOS featured a rarely seen Cym. sichuanicum. This species has a lovely(!) fragrance. The flower segments open up fairly closed, reminiscent of Cym. wenshanense (also fragrant), but somewhat later approach the openness of Cym. insigne. Note the honey orange-colored segments.

I think the most inspirational talk of the Congress goes to Dr. Lauren Gardiner, Assistant Botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Major kudos to CSA Congress organizer Lucia Brandt for securing Dr. Gardiner's participation!

Dr. Gardiner (Lauren) described the Writhlington School Orchid Project (http://www.wsbe.org.uk/), whereby schoolkids learn to perform tissue culture orchid seed germination, become responsible to grow different orchid genera, engage in real-world orchid conservation projects, human economics and poverty, and develop business practices to provide funding for program development and continuation. Part of the WSOP includes collaboration with Mohan Pradhan, a speaker at last year's CSA Congress. I appreciated seeing slides of Mohan and his achievements in Sikkim. After Lauren's talk, Lucia challenged the Congress participants to think about how we might create an analogous project here within the U.S. In a personal conversation with Lauren, she mentioned that the Arizona Orchid Society (http://jimni.0catch.com/osa2.htm) has developed a similar community outreach project to work with local schools. So at least there is at least one U.S. orchid society model from which our local orchid society may develop an analogous program.