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  • 3 Post By pavel
  • 3 Post By catttan

mericloning orchids

This is a discussion on mericloning orchids within the General Orchid Culture forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; I recall reading that orchid mericloning arose during the 1960's. Would I be correct in ...

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  1. #1
    pavel's Avatar
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    Default mericloning orchids

    I recall reading that orchid mericloning arose during the 1960's. Would I be correct in assuming that having a plant mericloned was quite expensive at that time? Any idea on just how common it was for orchids to be mericloned back then?

    My curiosity has been piqued as I recently received, in trade, a large division of Slc. Jewel Box 'Dark Waters.' The gent from whom I obtained it has had his plant for at least 25yrs. He got his as a division from an old os acquaintance who had had the plant for at least 10yrs before that. The gent believes (if his memory serves him correctly) that the os acquaintance, in turn, had obtained his plant as a division from yet another person. So there is the very real possibility that I may now have a division of the original 'Dark Waters' as opposed to a mericlone.

    Interestingly, to me at least, there is a notable difference between the division of "DW" and any of the others I have ever seen -- namely the size. Any of the "DW"s I have seen -- whether they be ones I used to own, at shows, or at vendors tables/booths -- have all easily fit the size category of "compact" (typically with pb + leaf only being about 9inches tall). This division has a number of pb + leaf that are 13-14inches tall (which would place it out of the compact category).

    Btw, I am quite certain his plant was not mislabeled as he did show me photo of the blooms. Unlike many of the newer hybrids, for which there seem to typically be numerous "look alikes", DW's blooms are rather distinctive.

  2. #2
    PaphMadMan is offline Senior Member
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    I am almost certain I remember a cattleya vendor selling mericlones of Jewel Box 'Dark Waters' and several other Jewel Box clones about 40 years ago when I first saw their catalog. At that time the mericlone process was fairly common and inexpensive. The first mericloned orchids were sold in about 1964. Jewel Box was registered in 1962, and 'Dark Waters' was awarded in 1965, so it could have been mericloned as far back as then. I don't think you can assume your plant comes from a never mericloned line of divisions. There were certainly mericlones out there in abundance as far back as your oral history goes.

    The major ancestors of Jewel Box are Gur. (C.) aurantiaca, C. dowiana and C. (L.) purpurata, with small contributions of C. mossiae, C. (L.) cinnabarina and C. (S.) coccinea. Most of those are big, and only coccinea is truly small, 4 generations back . JB can bloom at smallish sizes, but it definitely has the potential of being a very large plant when mature.

    Technically, of course, mericlones are divisions. As small as a single cell perhaps, but there really is no distinction.

  3. #3
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    First of all, all cultivars of Jewel Box are relatively compact catts when compared to the larger species in its background, but I would not call it that compared to some of the more modern hybrids out there.

    I have owned divisions of-, and clones of 'Dark Waters' and 'Scheherezade'.

    Sounds like PMM & I are contemporaries in the orchid-growing world, and - yes - mericlones were around "way back then", but in general, orchids were a lot more expensive then than they are now. The catalogs were chock full of cattleya seedlings - seed grown and clones - starting at $40.

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    Thanks for the info, gentlemen!

    LOL $40 doesn't sound like an obscenely exorbitant by today's standards for a bs plant, but considering that in 1965 (according to a site I found while Googling):
    Cost of a new home: $21,500.00
    Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.05
    Cost of a gallon of regular gas: $0.31
    Cost of a dozen eggs: $0.53
    Cost of a gallon of Milk: $0.95

    According to another site I found, $40 in 1965 would be equivalent to $298.78 today. So yeah $40 would have been a hefty price indeed -- especially since you said that was the price for catt seedlings!

    I'm surprised that even back then the mericloning process was "fairly common and inexpensive". I would have thought that, like so many new fangled things, it would have been quite expensive and therefore not too terribly common when the process first emerged.

    @PPM: Oh, I wasn't assuming that my plant came from a never mericloned line of divisions, but it is rather nifty to think that it just might have. (And touché, with regards to the point of mericlones essentially being divisions. )

    Thanks again!

  5. #5
    ksriramkumar is online now Senior Member
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    Wow. Great Stats. Seems to be background in Economics. Consumer price index is best method to compare orchid price over time.

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    It is generally accepted that orchid mericloning began in 1960 from the work and research of Georges Morel in France. I started to grow orchids in 1960 but had been interested since the mid 1950s while helping an uncle of mine to repot his orchids. Even then there were rumours that some scientists in Germany and USA were experimenting with tissue culture to produce mericlones. I remember that mericlones were generally available in the mid 60s but at obscenely exorbitant prices. Even plants grown from seeds in thumb pots cost between MR 15 - MR 30 ( US $1 = MR 3.50 then). BTW my monthly salary as a teacher then was about US$ 150. 2 - 4 seedlings a month was all that I could afford .

    It was in the late 70s and early 80s that mericlones became very affordable, thanks to Taiwanese and Thai breeders. During this period the venerable Thai orchid pioneer Professor Rapee Sagarik encouraged Thai breeders(even in remote villages) to participate in orchid propagation including tissue culture. Many of the plants we see today particularly the vandaceous are a result of this Thai mass participation.

    Paphiopedilums still have not been mericloned, though we have been hearing rumours from Taiwan that they have succeeded in mericloning Paphs but so far I have not seen any evidence of this claim. I understand that Masdevallia too has resisted mericloning.

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    PaphMadMan is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by raybark View Post
    Sounds like PMM & I are contemporaries in the orchid-growing world,
    I was 15 when I purchased my first orchids in 1975, mail order. That was the first check I ever wrote. But I had already been obsessed with orchids for a few years at that point.

  8. #8
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    I had my first orchid in '70, I'm sure I was just a baby then, right?? Oh, alright, I was a college student studying floriculture, planning to be a commercial flower arranger, or do something in landscaping. That never happened, I went off to groom dogs and get married, but I've loved orchids ever since I met them then. I don't even remember where I got my first couple, just that I had them - an epidendrum and a cyloegne, then Phals from my wedding flowers, as we bought the plants, not the flowers. My dad had a botany major, its in the family.

    I sure didn't know anything about mericloning, so can't add much to that conversation.

  9. #9
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    I bought my first orchid in 1978. Although there is no way to say for sure, it is not beyond the realm of possibility for you to have a division from the original plant. One of the reasons is that Jewel Box has the potential to almost double in size every year. A plant that is well grown will split leads very often. A friend had a CCM given to him from his blooming of Jewel Box. It had about 350 flowers.

  10. #10
    Lester Poole is offline Junior Member
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    The Jewel Boxes were among the very first cattleya alliance clones cloned and released commercially ...

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