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Other FAQs!

This is a discussion on Other FAQs! within the Breeding & Hybridization forums, part of the Orchid Propagation category; Please be aware that I am a professionally trained philosopher, and an evil genius, but ...

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  1. #1
    Sue's Avatar
    Sue is offline Evil Genius
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    Default Other FAQs!

    Please be aware that I am a professionally trained philosopher, and an evil genius, but not a botanist. I think I'm right about all this, but I wouldn't be surprised if something is quite wrong. Just let me know, and I'll fix it right up.

    The FAQs currently include:

    1. Why is orchid hybridizing so funky?

    2. How do I remove pollinia?

    3. How closely related to two plants have to be in order to breed?

    4. How do I pollinate a bloom?

    If you should have suggestions for additional FAQ entries, just drop me a line. Preferably a "line of credit". Like maybe a line of credit at Ikea. I've never bought anything from them before, but it would be a good excuse to drive to Chicago to visit my friend Brian again before he moves.

    Ok, you guys have really got to stop distracting me from what I'm talking about. My point was that you should let me know about other FAQ entries. You all just cannot stay on topic!

  2. #2
    Sue's Avatar
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    Default 1. Why is orchid hybridizing so funky?

    Here are the basics:

    Family Orchidaceae is a huge, young plant family. By young, I mean 'genetically in transition'. There's a whole lot of variation in the family, and the speciation has not become genetically ensconced enough to prevent wide-ranging interbreeding, once climatic, behavioral, physical, etc. barriers are removed (e.g., by keeping them in cultivation and hand-pollenating).

    One of the adaptations of the family, generally speaking, is the development of very small seeds with no internal food stores. This means they can produce a huge number of seeds, which can be carried by the wind across long distances (e.g., across the Atlantic). It also means that their growth from seed is dependent upon finding beneficial mycorrhiza. These fungi convert available plant matter (dead leaves, compost, etc) in the ground or on the branch into a form available to the orchid seedling. If it is able to find compatable mycorrhiza, the seed germinates, forming protocorms, which then produce little tiny pseudobulbs and leaves, and then the orchid can take care of itself. In place of these mycorrhiza, we humans use a sugar/nutrient solution, which is usually made into a gel with agar in order to provide support for the plantlets. Since this is also an ideal way to grow mold and fungus and things of that nature, the seeds need to be sown and germinated under sterile conditions.

    So, these are the two main things about orchid breeding: (1) you can breed a whole lot of quite different stuff together, and (2) you need a lab to germinate the seed.

    Most people send their seed off to a lab to have them flask it. A number of places do this for a reasonable fee; Troy Meyers' is especially good if you're just doing species outcrossing (i.e., crossing two clones of the same species), but they're more expensive for hybrids. If you'd like to try "going commando" and setting up your own mini-in-home-lab, you can find (comparatively) easy to understand instructions and more information than you'll know what to do with at Aaron Hicks' Orchid Seedbank Project.

    And, of course, this forum is a good option for asking questions. Good Luck!

  3. #3
    Sue's Avatar
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    Default 2. How do I remove pollenia?

    The following does not apply to Paphs, Phrags, or Cyps. I don't really work with them, so I'm not well equipped to give a good explanation of their rather different structure. If you don't know what you're doing with these guys already, I suggest you harass one of our local Paph/Phragheads to write a little something. Or I might eventually get off my metaphorical big lazy butt and write one on the slippers anyway.

    For the rest of them, here's a simple answer, and a complex one. The simple answer is:

    You wipe the flower's nose.

    The complex answer is much more useful. First, you need to know a couple of things.

    The pollenia are masses of pollen. In most orchids they will be more or less hard waxy masses, sometime seed-shaped, sometimes teardrop shaped. There will usually be either 2 or 4 per flower, but sometimes more. The pollenia are under the anther cap.

    The anther cap is at the end of the column, which is the protuberance in the center of the bloom. To remove the cap, you need to know if the flower is resupinate. Most orchids are resupinate, which, for our purposes here, we can just define as meaning that the lip is the bottommost petal. A lesser number are non-resupinate; i.e. with the lip on the top (e.g. Epidendrum radicans, Encyclia cochleata).

    If the flower is resupinate, like most, then you can remove the anther cap by nicking the bottom of the column, near the end. If it's non-resupinate, you'll need to do this from the top. The anther cap will come right off, bringing the pollenia with it. To extract the pollenia from the anther cap may require tweezers, but sometimes the cap falls right off.

    The pollenia will sometimes stick to whatever you used to remove the cap, but sometimes they'll fall on the floor and then you'll probably never find them, and you'll be really upset, and maybe you'll get a cold sore, or sprain something. This is why you should do all this over some white paper, and preferably on a table or something.

    So there you go. Wipe its nose.

  4. #4
    Sue's Avatar
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    Default 3. How closely related to two plants have to be in order to breed?

    Ok. You remember what I said back in question #1 about orchids being 'genetically in transition'? Here's where you see the effects of that fact. Some portions of the family are more established than others, which means that some will breed with more distant cousins than others. As Alex (amaximia) recently summarized:
    The rule of thumb is, same alliance will cross easily. Same subtribe may cross but with more difficulty. Same tribe may cross but very rarely. Different tribes will almost never cross. It is impossible to cross a monopodial (i.e., Phal) with a sympodial (i.e., Cattleya).

    Having said that, many dendrobiums will not cross with eachother like Sue said and cymbidiums have been known to cross with species from the Bletiinae subtribe. I believe the taxonomists are wrong in a few of the classifications.

    Incidentally, I have Oncidium chromosome counts from a couple of different sources (Withner, Arditti) and they are all over the place! Some serious misclassification going on there apparently.
    In general, if you're curious, check in the classifications (the orchidlady's guide is easy to read, but is (in part for that reason) quite incomplete. For a more complete but harder to use listing, look here: ). Same alliance is indeed a good bet. Here are some more details:

    Subfamily Apostasioideae: Don't know much about these guys. A kind of evolutionary backwater, and presumably pretty genetically isolated. Also, not commonly cultivated.

    Subfamily Cypripedioidea: I don't believe any intergenerics have been bred in this subfamily, although I don't know how often such breeding has been attempted. If anything would work, I figure the most likely would be a cross between a Phrag and a mutifloral Paph. Good luck; you'll need it.

    Subfamily Orchidoideae: There are only a very few intergenerics here, or, more accurately, I remember running across one once, and I don't remember where it was. I think it must have been a Dactylodenia (Dactylorhiza x Gymnadenia), which is a pretty close crossing. At any rate, even if only intra-alliance crosses were possible in this subfamily, there would still be a whole lot of really interesting hybridizing to do. I suspect that intra-subtribe crosses may be possible too, but there's no way to know except by trying.

    Subfamily Epidendroideae: Things get really ugly here. Here we have genus Dendrobium, which will not always interbreed just within the genus, not to mention intergeneric crosses. And then there is the Laeliinae subtribe, which interbreeds relatively freely throughout the subtribe. Finally, there's Phaius, in subtribe Bletiinae, which has has supposedly been bred with Cymbidium, all the way over in Vandoidae. But excepting those genera implicated in CymbidiumGate (to be discussed below), I'd try for intra-subtribe crosses here. Sometimes it'll work; sometimes it won't.

    Subfamily Vandoidae: Same kinda situation here. Tribe Cymbinieae: Some sections of genus Oncidium, like with genus Dendrobium, will not interbreed. But unlike Dendrobium, many species of genus Oncidium will readily interbreed with allied genera. So this seems to be, as Alex stated above, a genus which needs to be broken apart and reorganized; they are not of a natural kind, so to speak. In Subtribe Oncidiinae, the first alliance has interbred extensively, but only a few intergenerics have been recorded in other alliances or between alliances. Subtribe Stanhopeinae had had a few intergenerics, and there is certainly hope for more. Ignored breeding possibilities here, in my opinion, but Mike is working on that. Right Mike? The rest of the tribe either hasn't much been worked with, is isolated, or is addressed in CymbidiumGate, below. Tribe Maxillarieae; Some of this tribe is also implicated in CymbidiumGate. However, subtribes Corallorhizinae, Dichaeinae, Maxillariinae, Ornithocephalinae, and Telipogoninae are either isolated, or inter-subtribe crosses simply haven't been tried with them. I actually don't remember ever running across any intergenerics whatsoever within these 5 subtribes. Regardless, I expect that Maxillariinae, at least, will be able to produce some intergenerics; possibly quite distant ones. The first places I'd try would be with Lycaste, Bifrenaria, and Zygopetalum; then Cymbidium. Tribe Vandeae: Intra-alliance intergenerics are common here, inter-alliance intergenerics are not uncommon among Sarcanthinae. I'm sure I remember running across one or two inter-subtribe intergenerics, but I don't remember what. I think it might have been either Aerangis or Aeranthes crossed with one of the common Sarcanthinae, like Vanda. I'll write it down here next time I run across them.


    I've been researching this taxonomic scandal for a little while now. So far, I've come up with a theory, a big confusing list, and a theme song.

    How do you solve a problem like Cymbidium?/
    How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?/

    I'll spare you the rest of the song. Ok, honestly, I came up with just those two lines, and only like 30 seconds ago. But it would be really silly if it were a whole song about taxonomic problems surrounding the genus. REALLY silly.

    My theory is that Cymbidium has remained slightly primitive compared to its near relatives, thereby retaining the ability to breed comparatively widely. There does, however, seem to be a swarm of genera which seem to have remained compatible, so this certainly isn't just about Cymbidium. Regardless, there seems to be a kind of sprawling natural grouping which includes parts of tribes Maxillarieae, Cymbinieae, and Arethuseae. I have no idea whether these inter-related genera are part of a natural grouping which supersedes the tribal relations they have been placed in to date, or whether these genera represent those genera within these tribes which have retained more of certain primitive aspects which allow for them to interbreed widely with one another.

    At any rate, it goes to show you that if you randomly cross things that shouldn't breed, according to the taxonomy, there is at least some chance that it'll work anyway. I prefer research of breeding history and chromosome counts, but whatever.

    And now, finally, for the confusing list. Each list entry includes a genus, then a list of those genera which that genus has been crossed with according to the online files of the RHS. Note that some crosses are shown only one direction, and not the other. This is because these are the results I obtained from the RHS search engine. One can only assume that there is something wrong with the RHS search engine. But I have preserved these discrepancies, else the reader might try to go look something up, find it not there, and think I was just making up stuff. The entries which have an "x" before their number are manmade genera. You'll note that I did not cross-search on the manmade genera. This is because I got sick of doing this. When I began researching this, I had no idea it would turn into CymbidiumGate. I was just curious what Cymbidium had been crossed with, and ran across this giant mess of divergences.

    For a visual aid on this list, take a look at the site I listed before. It has the genera listed below printed in dark red. Here's the link again:

    Ok. Here's the list:

    1. Cymbidium [Cym.] aff:
    -----2. Ansellia (Ansidium)
    -----3. Clowesia [Clow.]
    -----4. Catasetum (Cymasetum)
    -----x1. Clowesetum (Cymaclosetum)
    -----5. Bifrenaria (Bifrenidium)
    -----10. Grammatophyllum (Grammatocymbidium)

    2. Ansellia aff:
    -----1. Cym. (Ansidium)
    -----4. Catasetum (Catasellia)
    -----6. Cycnoches (Cycsellia)
    -----7. Cyrtopodium (Cyrtellia)
    -----8. Galeandra (Galeansellia)
    -----9. Promenaea (Promellia)

    3. Clowesia
    -----6. Cycnoches (Clowenoches)
    -----7. Catasetum (Clowesetum)
    -----11. Mormodes (Mormodia)

    4. Catasetum
    -----11. Mormodes (Catamodes)
    -----8. Galeandra (Catasandra)
    -----2. Ansellia (Catasellia)
    -----6. Cycnoches (Catanoches)

    5. Bifrenaria
    -----13. Aganisia (Bifranisia)
    -----1. Cymbidium (Bifrenidium)
    -----14. Rudolfiella (Bifreniella)
    -----15. Lycaste (Lycasteria)

    6. Cycnoches
    -----4. Catasetum (Catanoches)
    -----11. Mormodes (catamodes?)
    -----3. Clowesia (Clowenoches)
    -----x2. Mormodia (Cyclodes)
    -----8. Galeandra (Cycnandra)

    7. Cyrtopodium
    -----2. Ansellia (Cyrtellia)
    -----10. Grammatophyllum (Grammatopodium)

    8. Galeandra
    -----4. Catasetum (Catasandra)
    -----6. Cycnoches (Cycnandra)

    9. Promenaea
    -----2. Ansellia (Promellia)
    -----16. Pabstia (Promenabstia)

    10. Grammatophyllum aff:
    -----1. Cymbidium (Grammatocymbidium)
    -----x2. Mormodia (Clomophyllum)
    -----11. Mormodes
    -----6. Cycnoches (Cycnophyllum)
    -----12. Bromheadia (Grammatoheadia)
    -----7. Cyrtopodium (Grammatopodium)
    -----x3. Cymaclosetum (Kalakauara)
    -----3. Clowesia
    -----4. Catasetum

    11. Mormodes
    -----4. Catasetum (Catamodes)
    -----6. Cycnoches (Cycnodes)

    12. Bromheadia
    -----10. Grammatophyllum (Grammatoheadia)

    13. Aganisia
    -----16. Pabstia (Pabanisia)
    -----17. Zygopetalum (Zygonisia)
    -----18. Cochleanthes (Agananthes)
    -----19. Zygosepalum (Agasepalum)
    -----5. Bifrenaria (Bifranisia)
    -----x4. Palmerara (Downsara)
    -----21. Otostylis (Otonisia)

    14. Rudolfiella
    -----5. Bifrenaria (Bifreniella)

    15. Lycaste
    -----x7. Angulocaste
    -----24. Anguloa

    16. Pabstia
    -----13. Aganisia (Aganax)
    -----23. Galeottia (Galabstia) (Coleottia?)
    -----15. Lycaste (Lycabstia) (Colaste?)
    -----x8. Zygopabstia
    -----x9. Zygoneria (Woodwardara)
    -----19. Zygosepalum (Pabstosepalum) (Colasepalum?)
    -----9. Promenaea (Promenabstia) (Prolax?)
    -----17. Zygopetalum (Zygopabstia)
    -----x12. Propetalum (Alangreatwoodara)
    -----21. Otostylis (Otopabstia)

    17. Zygopetalum
    -----x10. Prolax (Alangreatwoodara)
    -----25. Bollea (Bollopetalum
    -----x4 Palmerara (Durutyara)
    -----23. Galleottia (Galeopetalum)
    -----x13. Downsara (Hamelwellsara)
    -----9. Promenaea (Propetalum)
    -----x14. Otosepalum (Aitkenara)
    -----18. Cochleanthes (Cochlepetalum)

    18. Cochleanthes
    -----13. Aganisia (Agananthes)
    -----25. Bollea (Bolleanthes)
    -----26. Chaubardiella (Chaubardianthes)
    -----27. Chondorhyncha (Chondranthes)
    -----28. Stenia (Cochlenia)
    -----31. Huntleya (Huntleyanthes)

    19. Zygosepalum
    -----13. Aganisia (Agasepalum)
    -----23. Galleottia (Galeosepalum)
    -----9. Promenaea (Promosepalum)
    -----17. Zygopetalum (Zygolum)
    -----18. Cochleanthes (Cochlesepalum)
    -----16. Pabstia (Colasepalum)
    -----21. Otostylis (Otosepalum)
    -----x15. Bateostylis (Palmerara)

    20. error. I skipped this number by mistake earlier.

    21. Otostylis
    -----13. Aganisia (Otonisia)
    -----16. Pabstia (Otopabstia)
    -----19. Zygosepalum (Otosepalum)
    -----17. Zygopetalum (Zygostylis)
    -----x16. Batemannia (Bateostylis)

    22. Warrea
    -----29. Pescatorea (Pescawarrea)
    -----17. Zygopetalum (Zygowarrea)

    23. Galleottia
    -----(none listed)

    24. Anguloa
    -----15. Lycaste (Angulocaste)

    25. Bollea
    -----18. Cochleanthes (Bolleanthes)
    -----17. Zygopetalum (Bollopetalum)
    -----27. Chondorhyncha (Chondrobollea)
    -----x16. Keferanthes (Doreenhuntara)
    -----29. Pescatorea (Pescatobollea)
    -----x16. Keferanthes (Rotorara)

    26. Chaubardiella
    -----18. Cochleanthes (Chaubardianthes)
    -----28. Stenia (Steniella)

    27. Chondrohyncha
    -----18. Cochleanthes (Chondranthes)
    -----17. Zygopetalum (Zygorhyncha)
    -----25. Bollea (Chondrobollea)
    -----x12. Propetalum (Kanzerara)

    28. Stenia
    -----18. Cochleanthes (Cochlenia)
    -----26. Chaubardiella (Seniella)
    -----29. Pescatorea (Pescenia)

    29. Pescatorea
    -----25. Bollea (Pescatobollea)
    -----28. Stenia (Pescenia)
    -----18. Cochleanthes (Pescoranthes)
    -----17. Zygopetalum (Zygotorea)
    -----30. Kefersteinia (Keforea)
    -----22. Warrea (Pescawarrea)

    30. Kefersteinia
    -----18. Cochleanthes (Keferanthes)
    -----29. Pescatorea (Keforea)

    31. Huntleya
    -----18. Cochleanthes (Huntleyanthes)

    32. Phaius
    -----1. Cymbidium (Phaiocymbidium)
    -----33. Gastrorchis (Gastrophaius)
    -----34. Calanthe (Phaiocalanthe)

    33. Gastrorchis
    -----32. Phaius

    34. Calanthe
    -----(none listed)

  5. #5
    Sue's Avatar
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    Default 4.1 How do I pollinate a bloom?

    by lja

    This first photograph of a Phalaenopsis bloom shows the flower's column, with stigma and anther, and the flower's lip. The lip's complex shape and coloring helps to attract pollinating insects but serves no purpose in the reproductive process itself:

    This next photograph of the same flower with the lip removed clearly exposes the flower's column and reveals the stigma: the cavity or depression inside of which the pollenia need to be placed:

    Below, the anther cap has been removed from the column by nicking it off with a toothpick, and the pollinia have been extracted with tweezers. A toothpick will work just as well:

    Here, the flower's petals and sepals have been cut off to show only the flower's column and its stigma:

    Finally, the mass of pollinia is pressed into the stigma, where a sticky substance helps to hold it in place. In genera where the sticky substance is thin or absent, many growers use saliva to wet the stigma before pressing the pollen mass inside.

    The flower has now been pollinated, and only time will tell whether the pollination has been successful:

    (Don't dismember the flower by cutting off petals and lip when you're trying this at home. That was done here only to show the relevant structures more clearly in the photographs.)

  6. #6
    Sue's Avatar
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    Default 4.2 How do I pollinate a bloom?


    Here's a picture of my setup. Turns out I didn't have time to do anything with the four plants at the top.

    Here's a new entry for the Mtdm. which I'll be pollinating today. The reason for the entry is that I'll be storing some of the Mtdm. pollinia for later use. I store pollinia in a business card organizer. I make a note of the date of collection, the person the pollinia are from – if they're not from my collection – the location of the pollinia (page 10, pocket b in this case), and the number of pollinia, unless I'm being lazy.

    Here, I remove the anther cap.

    And, since the pollinia didn't come off with the anther cap, I then remove the pollinia.

    Then I put the removed Mtdm. pollinia in a little envelope made from glossy magazine paper. You'll note that this page in the business-card organizer is labeled 10, and the pocket is labeled 'b'

    Here, I have taken some pollen previously stored (Brs. Edvah Loo), and I am inserting the pollen into the stigma of the bloom.

    Here you can see the open pollinia packet from the Brs. Edvah Loo, and the tag for the pollinated bloom. The tag has the name of the pollen parent and the date of pollination.

    And here's the pollinated bloom with its tag attached. Individual tags like this are good if you plan to try multiple crosses on the same plant. If you're only trying one cross, making another tag for the pot is much easier and safer. This is pretty much your only options for very small blooms.

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