Cattleyas by Guido Braem

Guido is currently on a lecture tour of the UK, taking in 4 different Societies within an 8 day period. Although he is originally from Belgium, and now lives in Germany, his English is excellent having studied Botany in the northeast of England. It is difficult to know just how to describe him, and many adjectives spring to mind. One thing that can be said is that he speaks his mind, and is consistent with what he says and believes. He is a pure botanist, so deals with only species, and has scant regard for DNA analysis, and for other botanists who “can‟t read!” The rules of botany are extremely open to interpretation, but there does exist rules of priority on nomenclature which are frequently ignored by taxonomists, however, as he admits, plant descriptions must be in latin, but the grammar doesn‟t matter too much, nor does the original location – as long as one is entered, and this has resulted in different continents being used in Victorian times to protect sources from other plant hunters.

With the title of “Cattleyas – a review with comments on the mess made by modern taxonomists” we looked forward to his views on „the mess‟, and confusion that it has caused, as well as a possible way forward. Guido has probably mellowed in recent years and doesn‟t look to be as argumentative as he once was – possibly as he retires in a few years. He once spoke at a conference on the genome process (which has consumed many £millions of university funds), saying that at the end there would be more questions than answers, and that the whole process is flawed as there is more inter-relationship between genes, and their purpose in different situations (ie. root cells, leaf cells, and flower cells). He has little regard to the analysis and results of the DNA sequencers, as they are just lab staff, and not botanists. Their results within Cattleya appear to be based on certain common genes within the alliance, and therefore they are all the same. “It‟s just bull”, he says quite candidly. A lot of the things they now say are Cattleyas, Laelias or Sophronitis simply aren‟t. No comment was made on the new genera – which I guess he simply doesn‟t believe in. I feel that his views are that the most recent species descriptions are the most valid – from whichever botanist they come from, so a simple new publication could transform the whole system back. That doesn‟t mean that he is about to publish such a document!

Cattleyas were first described by John Lindley in 1821/2, with Lealias coming later in 1828. As they are sturdy canes, they were originally used for packaging within crates for other plants sent back from the Americas. Some of these crates were sent to a Mr Cattley, for whom John Lindley worked. He simply potted up this packaging material in the hot house, whereupon they grew and flowered. Lindley named the genus Cattleya after his patron, and the rest is, as they say, history.

Cattleyas come from the tropical and sub-tropical Americas (south of Mexico to Brazil). There are 2 different types – the unifoliates (single leaf), and the bifoliates (2 leaves), although this can vary, with well grown bifoliates often having 3 leaves. The unifoliates are found in both Central and northern South America, but there is a gap between the 2 areas. Bifoliates are found continuously within the areas.

Starting with the bifoliates, Guido took us through each section. Aurantiaca – comes from Mexico, and has masses of small orange flowers. Some colonies are a little different in that they have flowers that don‟t open fully, and they must rely on a crawling insect pollinator rather than something that flies in.

Bowringiana – has quite big flowers, generally lilac and blue, but also varies towards red.

Skinneri – is the national flower of Costa Rica. It is smallish, and highly variable, from pink to blue, often with alba or albescens forms. NB. The misuse of alba is something that annoys Guido.These three are those found in Central America, and the remainder are from Brazil, although they may creep over national boundaries from time to time.

Aclandiae – has beautiful colours, on a smallish plant and flowers that mottled red, yellow and purple with a contrasting white or pink lip.

Amethystoglossa – is a tall plant up to 1m high, with variable colours, usually mottled lilac or pink flowers. The lighter colour is the base, with the darker providing the spotting. The lip is usually the darker colour. There is also a boring alba form.

Bicolor – variable in colour, usually browny green with a pronounced sloping red lip with no side lobes. Var. brasiliense is more purple and red, with a larger lip.

Dormaniana – is similar to bicolour, but the petals reflex badly, whilst the lip lobes incurve. It also has a difference to most Cattleyas in that it has 8 pollinia, however, 4 of these are rudimentary.

Elongata – grows more as a terrestrial in very arid lime based soils alongside cacti. It has star shaped petals of purple brown and a rolled pink lip.

Forbesii – has a very nice shape with wider petals than those above, and more of a rounded lip – it looks more like a „traditional‟ Cattleya. Colour is variable, usually pale green to pink, with a whitish lip and a yellow throat.

Granulosa – is both an epiphyte and a terrestrial in arid areas. It has a very long flat lip of mainly purple and petals varying from pale yellow green to pink and brown, sometimes with some spotting.

Porphyroglossa – is very closely related to granulose, but the flowers tend to be a bit more brown.

Guttata – has mottled flowers of various colours and a lip that tends to be pink, but sometimes the rolled lobes are white. An alba form is green with a white lip that is incorrectly named.

Tigrina (or guttata var. leopoldii) is almost indistinguishable from guttata.

Harrisoniana – is a nice small plant with fuller shaped flowers of mainly pink, with a showy lip of varying colour.

Loddigesii is tall plant with large flowers of pink hues and a nice white lip. An alba form is very pretty.

Intermedia – is hugely variable in colour being whitish and pink to blue lips. Often these are peloric (petals the same colour as the lip), usually classed as var. aquinii. The normal form is pretty, and huge variation in aquinii is an acquired taste.

Kerrii – is relatively recently discovered (1976), and is an attractive pale pink with a hooded lip (the side lobes meet fully).

Schilleriana – is mainly brown to green mottled with a veined white/purple lip, and is very tall.

Tenuis – is possibly a bicolor natural hybrid, and is very close to bicolor.

Velutina – is a very nice brownish flower with a white purple veined lip that is a little more flamboyant.

Violacea – is a species found beyond Brazil, where it has crept into Peru at the top of the Amazon basin. It is mainly pink to purple, with some white on the lip.

Walkeriana is a shortish plant with roundish flowers. The species is odd in that it has vegetative growths and floral growths (dimorphism – having 2 body types). The flowers appear rounder due to the large petals, and a relatively long lip. Usually pink, alba forms exist, and semi-alba ones inbetween.

Dolosa – is very similar to walkeriana, and may be a natural hybrid.

Moving onto the unifoliates;

Araguaiensis – is a plant that looks more like an Epidendrum. It comes from the River Araguai area, and has rolled brown petals and a whitish lip. It is notably hard to cultivate.

Dowiana – comes from Panama, and is noted for having a colourful lip. The petals tend to be pale yellow, with the lip reddish veined. Some petals can tend towards pink, whilst retaining yellow sepals. Aurea is virtually indistinguishable, having a „more colourful‟ lip.

Gaskelliana – is a smelly flower of generally pink colouration. An Alba form has yellow inside the trumpet.

Iricolor – comes from Ecuador, and is cream, with a colourful lip of white, yellow and pink.

Jenmanii – is a blousier flower of pale pastel colours lilac to pink with a deeper coloured narrower lip. Alba forms exist.

Labiata – is the „standard‟ and original flower within Cattleya, dating from 1824. Over the years most of the others have started out as varieties of this species. It has quite a full flower and a very frilly lip. Colours are highly variable from white through to pink, sometimes with some spotting. It can grow as a terrestrial in arid areas.

Warneri – is just about identical to labiata, with a similar colour range. However it flowers in spring.

Mendellii – is another similar plant, but has a narrower tubed lip, and occurs in a different location.

Lawrenciana – is a northern growing plant with a long large funnel (or trumpet). Flowers are pink to white.

Lueddemanniana – is similar to lawrenciana, and has a slightly fuller flower.

Luteola – is a small plant with yellow green flowers with a lip that doesn‟t fully roll, with some red inside. Var. mooreana is much taller.

Maxima – is from Ecuador, and has a long rhizome. It is tall with reflexed pink petals and a veined lip.

Mossiae – is very close to maxima, with more colour variation. Percivalliana – is a northern plant. It is a fast grower, and forms specimen plants quickly of red or pink smelly flowers with a deeper coloured funnel.

Rex – was described originally (Linden, 1838) as ugly. The flowers are white with a more colourful lip of red & yellow, and can be quite small to the size of plant.

Schroderae – is a great plant! It has large blousy flowers of white to red.

Trianiae – has a good lip. The flowers are flat and can become „square‟, and tend to be whitish. F. chocoensis is more cupped (though is often known as C. quadricolour – Ed).

Tricopiliochila – is a name from Guido as he believes the original (eldorado/wallisii) is invalid. The name means it has a lip like a funnel. The flowers are white to pink with yellow inside the funnel.

Warsewiczii – is a huge flower of mainly white with varying colours on the lip.

After a few questions a hearty round of applause was given.