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.


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