by Martin Motes, PhD
Aeridinae species and hybrids come in all sizes from the delights of tropical gardens, Vandopsis at six feet (2M.) to the jewel-like Schoenorchis at one inch (2.5Cm.). Greenhouse, window sill and light growers in temperate climes usually prefer plants toward the more petite size of this range. There are plenty to choose from.
Vanda, itself, contains several very diminutive species that are extremely attractive. V. cristata and the species related to it in the group recently given generic status as Trudelia (V. pumila, V. alpina etc.), are of particular interest as they are also high elevation plants with considerable cold tolerance. V. cristata has been the most widely used in hybridizing. Surprisingly, this species which is generically very closely related to the type species V. tessellata has proven to be compatible with a broad range of other Aeridinae, including Phalaenopsis. V. Paki (V. cristata x V. tricolor var. sauvis) is illustrative of the virtues that V. cristata can confer on its progeny. The compact plants produce numerous sprays of brilliantly spotted flowers with vivid red lips several times per year. Ten of these have garnered AOS awards and one an AM from the Royal Horticultural Society. The hybrid of V. cristata with Neofinetia falcata (another cold tolerant, diminutive species) has also been highly successful. The distinctive purple and red lips of Vfta. Virgil (V. cristata x Neo. falcata) show how V. cristata confers its brilliant lip color on even the most reluctant of partners.
Vanda species of the Testacea group ( V. coerulescens, V. lilacinia and V. testacea,)are also small statured plants. Less used in hybridization, they have much unrealized potential to produce compact free flowering hybrids such as the highly successful V. Ben Berliner (V. coerulescens x V. cristata).
Ascocentrum a horticulturally (but not botanically) distinct genus to Vanda is composed of several species of small plants with numerous colorful flowers arranged in erect hyacinth-like inflorescences. Asctm. curvifolium and Asctm. garayii (miniatum hort.) have been the most widely and successfully hybridized. Both species are spring blooming, long day plants which have proven felicitous partners to the short day Euanthe sanderiana and its hybrids. First generation hybrids of Ascocentrum with standard vandas produce brilliantly colored flowers of excellent shape on compact free flowering plants. Crossed back successively to vandas to produce more complex hybrids, these positive qualities of size color and floriferous ness are often lost or diminished. Re-makes of such early successes as Ascocenda Yip Sum Wah and Ascda. Meda Arnold or new primary hybrids from Ascocentrum would be valuable additions to modern horticultural stocks.
Crossed to other compact genera ascocentrums produce a wide range of colorful pot plants. Their brilliant hue is sufficient to overcome the propensity of Neofinetia falcata to suppress color. Ascofinetia Cherry Blossom ( Neof. falcata x Asctm. ampullaceum), Ascofinetia Peaches (Neof. falcata x Asctm. curvifolium) and Ascofinetia Twinkle (Neof. falcata x Asctm. garayii) all produce an array of pleasing pastel flowers.
Rhyncostylis coelestis is a compact plant vegetatively little different from Ascocentrum. It is prized for its brilliant blue color which is most prominent in its lip. Crosses of Rhy. coelestis to both Vanda and Ascocentrum and their hybrid have been a successful avenue for producing small, color pot plants. With Ascocentrum, Rhy. coelestis has produced to notable hybrids Rhyncocentrum Ladda Gold (Rhy. coelestis x Asctm. garayii) and Rhnctm. Lilac Blossom (Rhy. coelestis x Asctm. ampullaceum). Crosses to Ascocenda to produce the hybrid genus Vascostylis are dramatically successful. Rhyncostylis coelestis intensifies color. Its hybrids are noted for deep concolor tones of purple, blue and pink. Hybrids such as Vasco. Pine Rivers, Vasco. Blue Boy and Vasco. Precious are among the most striking of vandaceous hybrids. The introduction of genes from Aerides produces the hybrid genus Perreiraara of which Prra. Luke Thai is perhaps the finest and itself a successful parent of such hybrids as Prra. Motes Leprechaun.
Neofinetia falcata and its hybrids have many virtues in terms of size and cold tolerance. The chief draw back of these moth pollinated Ascocentrum relatives is their lack of color. When breed to all save the most brilliantly colored flowers, Neofinetia tones the color down to a pastel wash. Crosses to tetraploid ascocendas overcome this deficit but are sterile triploids, a hybridizing dead end. A particularly dark selection of Neostylis Lou Sneary( Neof. falcata x Rhy. coelestis) has been mericloned and widely distributed thus providing another avenue to more colorful Neofinetia hybrids.
Paraphalaenopsis can also produce compact plants. Although the leaves of certain species(most notably Pps. labukensis) can be quite long, the plant stem is remarkably short. Mature Paraphalaenopsis can bloom on plants with a stem height of no more than ½ inch(1.2Cm). Hybrids with vandas produce large displays of colorful flowers as in Paravanda Martin Motes ( Pps. laycockii x Vanda denisoniana) and Paravanda Poetic License (V. Misty Shinsatoi x Pps. Ponce es Ponce). The most spectacular of pot plants occur when Paraphalaenopsis is crossed to Renanthera. Pararenanthera Isabella (Pps. laycockii x Ren. imshootiana) exemplifies this dramatically, carrying up to 25, three inch brilliant red flowers on a six inch tall plant in a four inch basket.
The possibilities of creating compact vandaceous hybrids amenable to temperate orchid growers needs are numerous. Unfortunately, the wealth of material at the orchid grower's disposal is not as fully utilized as might be. Many tropical and subtropical shade houses are filled with delightful, miniature vandaceous plants which could equally well be brightening a temperate orchid collection. As knowledge of the simple care of vandaceous orchids becomes more widely spread the abundance of these delightful species and hybrids will as well.
photos courtesy Motes Orchids