Interview with
Carlos Eduardo de Britto Pereira

A specialist in the genus Oncidium in Brazil.

Editor of the Proceedings of the XV World Orchid Conference -
Brazil l996


For many reasons, the genus Oncidium is considered as one of the most difficult in Orchidaceae family. First of all, due to similarity between different species, very often, one concludes that certain species occurs in two different habitats but, in fact, they are two different species although very closed. On the other hand, the variations inside the same species brought, in the past and, occasionally still bring, to the description of the same species under different names, provoking, in this way, an artificial augmentation of the number of them. Finally, due to important disparities existent between the different sections, this genus has been frequently studying (including the utilization of DNA) and as a result of those studies many species that we knew under the nomenclature of Oncidium are nowadays classified in others genera. In order to understand a little more about the species which occur in Brazil, we asked Carlos Eduardo de Britto Pereira, chemist, researcher of the genus Oncidium in Brazil and editor of the Proceedings of XV WOC, to do an explanation about this genus in Brazil that will be published, integrally in our virtual magazineOrchid News.
Due to the generous disposability to talk over this subject and due to his enormous knowledge, we decided to include his explanation in a special topic.
We asked him to talk specially about the species which provoke more controversy with validity of nomenclature, synonyms or occurrence in Brazil.
So, you can not miss " Carlos Eduardo de Britto's considerations" about the genus Oncidium in Brazil included in the topic "GENERA" at our site.

Let's to the interview:

ON: How is your history as orchidophile and orchidologist? Oncidium was your first interest? :

CB: When I started to cultivate orchids, I did not even know what Oncidium was. In my sitting room, I have a bookshelf with two places to put plants. This bookshelf has been projected by an uncle who was a great architect. He has also projected the theatre of Copacabana Palace Hotel. I used to give parties in my place and just before one of them, I went to market and bought two pots of de Dendrobium and put them on of the bookshelf. Fifteen days later, I gave another party and bought two more. Friends concluded that I loved orchids, called me to spend a week-end in Petrópolis in order to know some nurseries. So I went to Binot for the first time, I was astonished and started to buy as a fool, every genus, Maxillaria, Laelia rupícola, I do not know what also and Oncidium. However something attracted me to Oncidium, may be because it is, sometime, a very small plant with an enormous spike, plenty of flowers. I decided to study this genus. I started to buy more and more Oncidium, I wanted all species. I looked for a book. I did not find. I decide to make one.

How long have you been studying this genus?

I started 14 or 15 years before. I went to libraries and Botanical Garden and when I went to the Library of the National Museum for the first time, I told to the person who worked there that I was looking for a book about Oncidium.
O. aloha-O. lanci. Photo/Foto: Sergio AraujoHe immediately asked why I did not go to Bradeanum Herbarium, he said it was closed but there would be a visit and he would inscribe my name to get in. So, I went to herbarium and there I had the great luck in my life, I met Francisco e Cristina Miranda. The material about the genus Oncidium was lent to United States and I started to talk with Cristina and Francisco. I asked him to give me private classes in botany because I wanted to learn about nomenclature, parts of the flowers and so on. He give me classes but he did not accept any payment. Since them, I have been travelling with him and it has been many, many years of travels, friendship and learning. I have a great admiration for Francisco, he is botany for excellence. He listen to you and does not immediately repel what you were saying. The answer can be not but first he will think about. I know botanists that do not accept other opinions, they affirm something and considered the discussion closed. It is not possible.

I notice that you are very careful about when we ask you to identify an Oncidium species (mainly with photographs), you always say: - "It seems to be that species but I should study more before answer you". You also ask to bring a flower or the plant.

I am plenty of doubts about the genus Oncidium.

But those doubts arise from the knowledge because when someone does not know very well a subject, he does not even have a doubt. I think it comes from the knowledge, not from the want of knowledge.

Just talking about terrestrial Oncidium, I mean, terrestrial and rupicolous because it is practically impossible to do a distinction between those two habits of growing, specially from Minas Gerais, I have 22 materials of liquid herbarium, which I did not succeed yet in identifying. I have to study more for defining if they are species already described or if new species which is perfectly possible. Look, for example, the rupicolous species of Laelia, intensively used in hybridization arise more attention than the Oncidium. The greater part of them has been describe recently, during Pabst's period, it means, not during the expeditions of the naturalists in the XIX century. They collected plants here and distributed to Europe to be described. Although, they went to 500 different places, the way they took in Minas Gerais was more or less the same. Not exactly the same because at this age, there were no roads, it was just tracks, pathway. Except for Saint Hilaire who went to southeast (he got down to São Paulo), Martius, Paul, Gardner, Warming (I studied about them because I did a lecture about this subject in Austria), all of them went to the region of Diamantina, habitat of many of those species of Laelia and have never found them. It is perfectly possible that the same thing had occurred with those species of Oncidium I had talked about because they come more or less of the same region.

So you believe that we still have new species to be described, don't you?

I am sure about three. One of them, Francisco was describing with me, it comes from the State of Rio de Janeiro. Another one comes from the State of Minas Gerais. I discovered it during a travel that I did with Francisco, I almost fell down from the rocks because of this Oncidium, it was a 200m high precipice. The plant had not flowers, I planted it in my place, in Friburgo, and it bloomed this year, in March. It is a beautiful Oncidium although very small. It is yellow, the callus of the lip is crimson with white drawings as they were mosaics. This species is certainly a new one.

In which section, it could be inserted?

Planifolia or verrucituberculata. The material has been collected, it is in alcohol but I have not studied yet because I am doing my thesis. There is another one that Augusto Burle sent me, it comes from south of the State of Bahia, assigned to Waluewa Section. There is another one, also assigned to the same section, coming from the State of Espirito Santo that I do not know if it has been already described.

So, can we expect surprises in the genus Oncidium, with those news species, can't we?

Yes but, any way, we should be very careful when we describe a new species. First of all, when you do something in taxonomy, you need to know the type, to visit herbariums where they are recorded. How could someone described a new specie without knowing the types of the other species already existent and recorded in European herbariums? It can lead to mistakes. Before describing a species botanist thinks it can be a new one, he should go to the herbariums, see the material-type of the species he thinks is closely related, verify the variations occuring and give a special attention to the callus mainly with the genus Oncidium. It is necessary to do a comparative study between the bibliography, the materials of reference and alive material of the species. The alive material should be exhaustively analyze in order to understand the variations existent and the limits of this species. You can not just think that it is a different thing and described as a new species. If it seems to be a certain species, you should compare with the population of this species because there many variations existent inside the same population. Concerning the terrestrial species, in the same spike, you can have different flowers, I am tired of seeing it, in a flower, one side of the callus is lacking, in others, the callus is more complex or simpler. In general, they are quite equal but there are those small variations. You can not consider different species only because of them. It does not occur only with the genus Oncidium. For instance, if you compare Cattleya labiata type to Cattleya labiata 'Emília', the later seems to be a hybrid. The normal Cattleya labiata is not upright like 'Emília'. Another example, Cattleya walkeriana called "cabeça de boi morto" (dead cow's skull), that is used to be put in the fence in the interior of the country. Almost all of them are like this but there are some other that are perfect, such as 'Feiticeira'. Many people say it is "made" however I have already see round Cattleya walkeriana coming from the wood. How could you say that is a another species only because of this?

So, you consider that it is very important not only exhaustively study the alive material but also to visit herbariums, don't you?

It is fundamental, in order to avoid describe a plant that has already been described with another name, otherwise it becomes a big mess in taxonomy of orchids, specially concerning the genus Oncidium.
O. kraenzlinianum (arquivo Carlos Eduardo)To make it worse there is a work made by a botanist called Kraenzlin, who intended to do a revision of the genus. In my opinion, in some situations, he did not succeed and created an enormous puzzlement which lead to mistakes that still remain. This work called Monograph of Oncidium has been published in 1922. Kraenzlin was an European botanist, he had any material of herbarium at his disposal to be examined. He did something in Reichenbach's herbarium that let me sickened. He wrote on Reichenbach's exsiccates changing what he had done. He disrespected Reichenbach's works, he could not agree with him but he could not scratch the exsiccates and wrote his opinion on them. I learnt a lot visiting herbariums.

Besides those visits, has you also visited many habitats?

I went to the States of Minas Gerais, Rio and São Paulo. Paraná, I visited many times but regarding to what I need to do, it is not enough. In Minas Gerais, I went to many places but I need to go to more because to me, the origin of the species I need to investigate more is Minas Gerais.

  Which region exactly in Minas?
Everyone, in the south of Minas, for example, I need O. martianum which has been collected with O. maculosum by Martius, near to Poços de Caldas, Pouso Alegre. O. maculosum I have already found there but O. martianum not yet.
    O. maculosum (arquivo Carlos Eduardo)
O. maculosum
  O. martianum (arquivo Carlos Eduardo)

O. martianum
In the north of Minas there are many things, many habitats, I know about others places where I have to go. For example, when you go to Montes Claros, there is a mountain where you can see distant rocks. I never went to there but I intend to. Minas Gerais is a big state, we think it is small when we see in the map and we compare to Amazonas, but it is very big, with many different systems and those plants which occur on the rocks, sometimes are endemic to a restrict region. Those places are very far from Rio and also between them. For example, I went two times to Grão Mogol, in the north of Minas, looking for O. isopterum, it is 1.100km far from Rio de Janeiro. The problem is not only the time we expend but also it is very expensive.

Grão-Mogol is situated in a mountainous region?

It is not so high as Diamantina although there are higher mountains. It is also Serra do Espinhaço but it is not so high.

Where do you think the genus Oncidium is concentrated? Minas Gerais?

Non, I should say State of Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo, Atlantic Forest.

We can put in this way, Atlantic Forest could be the preferred habitat of the genus?

There are many species but I would not say that. There are species from the Atlantic Forest and there are species from drier regions, rupestrian fields. But there also are rupestrian fields in Atlantic Forest. In the middle of the wood, suddenly, there is a rock and a rupicolous field. The new species from the State of Rio I have talked about, coming from a rupicolous area like this. Can you imagine O. varicosum growing in a rock? Can you imagine in the middle of the pasture land? I have wonderful slides of those occurrences. A big plant flowering in the middle of the pasture, under the grass, there was a rock. It grew in the rock. We imagine an epiphyte plant and finally find it as epiphyte and terrestrial in the same habitat. And O. crispum, can you imagine growing in the rock too?

O. praetextum (arquivo Carlos Eduardo)
Here, in Atlantic Forest, you can
find O. praetextum, wrong called
enderianum growing like this.
It grows where the seed dropped.
Can you imagine O. batemanianum
in a tree?
I saw it, the seed dropped there
and, by chance,
has germinated and developed.

Briefly, a very adaptable genus?

Very adaptable if you think in terms of epiphyte plants which can grow as terrestrial (rupicola) or vice-versa. If I take warmer growing species to my place in Friburgo (cool region), I will certainly kill the plant.

O. flexuosum. Photo/Foto:Sergio Araujo
How about O. flexuosum,
for example, which can grow
in every where?

But O. flexuosum is from warmer
and cooler habitats.

The same variety?O. ciliatum (arquivo Carlos Eduardo)

Not he same variety but the same species. For example, O. ciliatum, I have already found it in a small drenched wood, in Diamantina and here in sandbank. I also found it in Conceição do Mato Dentro, 800m altitude. They are reasonably tolerant of a wide range of climates. There are someone that can not manage it.

And in the savannah (cerrado)? There are a few species, aren't there?

Precisely in the cerrado, just a few, it is very dry. I just found O. cebolleta and in a place called "Water's eyes", you can conclude that there was a source , there is a lake with a small wood around, I found O. macropetalum. In fact, it is a micro climate although O. macropetalum comes from drier climate.

O O. macropetalum is also found in more humid mountainous regions. Hoehne talked about it in his book "Iconografia das Orquidáceas do Brasil". And O. batemanianum, does it also occur in Goiás?

In Goiás, I do not know, but it occurs in the region of Diamantina, Minas Gerais, in a dry place. The type comes from a place called Rio Grande.

In our researches, we found O. batemanianum, O. cebolleta, O. chapadense although contested, O. orthostates, O. fuscopetalum, O. hydrophilum, O. macropetalum, O. pumilum, O. varicosum as occurring in the State of Goiás. Can it be in savannah areas?

It depends, for example, the plants of O. varicosum I saw, came from Goiás, Chapada dos Veadeiros. As it is chapada (tableland) it should be a high cool place, with more wood. On the other hand, O. cebolleta, O. macropetalum, O. fuscopetalum come from dry regions, they can occur in savannah. O. pumilum is another very tolerant plant. In Minas Gerais, I saw it growing in a rock, in Montes Claros, in wet wood, in Carangola, in a mango tree jaboticabeira, in the State no estado do Rio.

  Mix Oncidium. Photo and assemblage: Sergio Araujo

I have already found three species
in a very dry rock:

O. pumilum,




Have you done a photographic register of your visits?

I have a collection of photos of plants in Chapada da Diamantina, Serra do Cipó, in the habitat of O. spilopterum, with thousand of them. In general, Oncidium is not so closed as Laelia that you should be careful for not walking over the plants. It grows more spread, there is no plant at all, suddenly, you find a agglomeration of 8, 10 plants, you walk for a while until find another one. I could verify it with many rupicolous, terrestrial species. When you are walking over a rock, you see one here, another there, over there, meanwhile you see 50 Laelia in the middle of the way. I mean Oncidium is not rupicolous Laelia which, in general, occupies the role rock. By the way, the habitat of L. briegeri where I went for many times, the last time I visit it, there was not anything more. Without talked about the mining in the habitat da Laelia bradei. The plants were drowned in sand. On the other hand, in the south of Minas, there is a place with big trees, not small trees but big trees, completely covered with O. longipes, there is not place to put a finger. I know about another tree covered with "orelha de burro" (mule's ear), I do not know which species, the species called big mule's ear are 4, O. divaricatum, O. pulvinatum, O. robustissimum, O. sphegiferum. When we talk about mule's ear, we talk about those four but there also are small mule's ear, O. harrisonianum, O. edwalii, O. hians e O. kraenzlinianum.

And the terrestrial species? They are much more mix together, they are much more difficult.

In fact, we can confound them, the group is very complicated, I consider my self as a beginner with the terrestrial, rupicolous species. O. batemanianum, for example, I can recognize with closed eyes because of the characteristic callus, it is easier to recognize although it also has its variations.

O.spilopterum - Arquivo/Archive: Carlos Eduardo
Other species are not so
characteristic as
O. batemanianum
or as
O. spilopterum

which are unmistakable plants.
On the other hand, I think O. montanum is harder to be recognized not exactly because of it self but because of those 22 material of herbarium I have already talked about. Those terrestrial are very confused between themselves. I found another species in Gouveia, at the beginning of Chapada Diamantina, that I do not know what it is. It can be O. hydrophilum or O. cipoense or another new species. The group is complicate.
If you think about O. montanum,
it is already complicate, if you start
to think about other species in the
same group, the complication increases,
O. caldense,
O. ramosum,
O. donianum,
there are many species, all of them are
really very similar. It is very complicated.
O. montanum. Arquivo/Archive: Carlos Eduardo

You mentioned O. cipoense, do you consider it as a valid species?

I did not have the opportunity of studying this species yet so I do not know if the name is valid or not.
Perhaps, it is a species, a synonym of O. hydrophilum, but it can not be. I do not know yet, I do not see the type nor the description.
There are too few species described even in Orchidaceae Brasiliensis by Pabst & Dungs.
Ecuador and Central America have many species and those regions are frequently visited by American botanists. There are 500 species and when you analyze you verify that there are small differences between them. Here, where we have so big differences, the species are not known because no one comes to do this.
In my opinion, there many species to be described. As I have already said, those descriptions should be done based in consultation in herbariums and that is no good visit just one, you have to see the material is others herbariums too.

And the Oncidium haematochrysum and O. haematoxanthum?

In general, the former botanists used to correspond with each other and I have read that Reichenbach had sent to Lindley a drawing of O.haematochrysum, which he had described and one of O. haematoxanthum. Both are synonyms of O. flexuosum. I thought there were only two drawings but there are four or five big sheets of paper. I have a photocopy, it was hard to get it. O. flexuosum (arquivo Carlos Eduardo)

I can say that based on what I have already seen in those drawings, O. haematochrysum was practically identical to O. flexuosum however I just felt sure about when I went to the herbarium of Vienna and see the type O. haematochrysum.
It is exactly equal to type of O. flexuosum described by Sims, in l821, it is the O. flexuosum.
The variety haematoxanthum I have already found. It has a yellow-lemon pulvillus. The shape of the lip varies a lot in this species, it can be tetralobe or not. The front lobe of the lip also presents in different shapes. The important is the callosity, those small needles and the small pulvillus it has which starts above the callus, near the column, in general reddish.
is hard, you know?
I have already found O. rivierianum, that I thought it was non-existent.

Where did you find it?

In Orquidário Binot, there was a shelf in the end of the nursery which I called cemetery.
Plants that they could not identify or those which were dying, they put there. I have bought many cheap plants there even if they were dying because as they were Oncidium, they interested me, I bought expecting saving them.
Concerning the O. rivierianum, unfortunately I do not know where it came from, I do not have photograph but I have herbarium material. I used to take plants to be photographed by a professional photographer but it became so expensive that I should stop it. The photograph fixed an appointment but he did not come and I lost the flower. The flower faded away, the plant died because when I bought it was dying .
There I also found O. paranaense. It was the only I have seen, it has a very small flower, folded, it is funny, but it is pretty, it not ugly. The only Oncidium that does not attract me is O. aberrans, I brought it from Paraná. The flower is very small, it is not a "fat" inflorescence like O. pumilum, which is beautiful.
Do you know O. schwambachii which occurs in Espírito Santo, it is white with a yellow small callus, very perfumed, similar to O. pumilum e O. morenoi?

O. morenoi - Photo/Foto:Sergio Araujo O. pumilum. Photo/Foto:Sergio Araujo


No, I do not know. There is a enormous quantity of synonyms and very often, we feel confused.
For example, according to my researches, Brazil has nowadays 15 of former 26 sections with more or less 107 species, we can not know exactly because there are many divergences about synonyms.

Have you find that information in Pabst?

Mainly in Pabst but there are other more recent publications about new species and the modifications.

However you should not forget that after the publication of Orchidaceae Brasiliensis, bu Pabst & Dungs, some valid species have been described, for example, O. schunkeanum and O. majevskyi.


According to Francisco Miranda, in his book "Orchids from the Brazilian Amazon", in that region, there are few species but not many. O. baueri. Photo/Foto: Sergio Araujo
O. cebolleta, O.baueri, O. nanum and, also to me, the most beautiful species O. lanceanum (nowadays Lophiaris lanceana) with big flowers.
João Baptista F. da Silva found in Roraima a species (nowadays Psychopsis) that the thought, at the first sight, is sanderae.
O. lanceanum. Photo/Foto: Sergio Araujo
Do you know about another one?


O. papilio, in Acre, O. urophyllum (nowadays Tolumnia urophylla) from Oncidium section, reported to the state of Amazonas. I do not yet confirm this occurrence as the two times I received material to examine when they bloomed, there were Ionopsis.

So it would be the only equitant Oncidium to Brazil although the species from former Oncidium section (equitant) were transferred to the genus Tolumnia and O. papilio became Psychopsis papilio.?

It is something, for example, that I do not agree. The genus Oncidium has been described based in three completely different plants, they are the type of genus Oncidium, one of them is O. variegatum (section called Oncidium that does not belong to the genus Oncidium any more), the other is O. altissimum, from Central America and a third. I will not consider that change, when I will publish my book, if I find O. urophyllum, it will stay as O. urophyllum. Concerning the genus, I follow the Synopsis of the genus Oncidium, published in Bradea which included already the migration of many genus such us Miltonia and Brassia, but O. papilio is O. papilio.

This subject is inexhaustible. We should wait for your book about Brazilian species. When do you intend to publish it?

At this moment, I can not set to work on this book because I am finishing my thesis. I intend to publish it with the maximum number of species I can.

Do you want to say something more?

I would like to say that many people helped in Brazil and still help me. I received many plants. There are people from Paraná, Santa Catarina, Espirito Santo, Érico de Freitas Machado, Nêgo plantas, who keep apart different Oncidium to me. Other people, from São Paulo, another people from Santa Catarina who I never met, Augusto Burle, from Pernambuco has already send plants. However there some people that closed me the doors.

Carlos Eduardo, although just a few people know, you were the editor of the 15th World Orchid Conference Proceedings, Brazil l996. How it has been to you? It should be a very enriched experience although also troublesome, forcing you to spend a long time.

The experience was completely different from what I could imagine because I never though that it would be 8 months of work, really, tough work. For many reasons, I had free time to do this work. The first big problems has been to get the lectures, I did not get to assemble all of them, from 88, I got 79 or 78. The great part was from Brazilian speakers but some foreign speakers did not send their too, although I had insisted a lot. As I was responsible for the horticultural lectures, I could fortunately got some lectures when the speakers were leaving the room. The lectures that I had troubles to get, were exactly those who the authors did not give me in that time. One of them, for example, told me that he would give it Francisco Miranda, but he did not. Another author has been very kind with me, showed me some rough notes, told that he would make a fair copy to give me. I looked for him until the Conference was closed but I never saw him again. Helena Eyer, Raimundo Mesquita's secretary, send many letters by fax to him but we never got a answer. Another author just sent me his lecture after many telephone calls and when we said that we had no more time to wait. The day after, we received it. The second problem was the translations. The lectures which were in English or in Spanish to Portuguese and those in Portuguese and Spanish, in English. I contracted a translator which dominate very well English language, she translated books. I thought that we had a long time to do it but, as I did not receive the lectures, the delay was much more smaller provoking a very big stress and forced the translator to work until four o'clock in the morning. This kind of work, involving very specific difficulties, nomenclature rules, what should be and what should no be written in italic and so on. I received the text translated in disk and did the revision. Certain word can induce to errors, Laelia species does not mean the species Laelia but one species of Laelia, so we should pay more attention. Briefly, it has been 8 months of doing, re-doing, reviewing. I read 12 times every lecture, first to check the translation, then to check the typewrite, then to check what I have done and so on. Another difficult was to get the slides. We should insistently asked for them. Some people sent us, some did not, some sent us the wrong photos. We intended to put 5 photos for lecture but when we checked the material we had received, sometimes, they did not concerned the subject of the lectures that is why there is a lecture with just one photo.

It seems that the final result is not exactly how you expected?

Later, I received the proofs of everything except for the part of the Arts. I had one week to review every thing. I stayed at home, reviewing every thing and there were many mistakes. I have had done strictly in conformity with the rules of botanical nomenclature but they have done some changes. I persisted in requiring that every thing should be exactly as it has been sent and it has been done. All corrections I have asked, were done, I can not complain about it, except for a Oncidium orgyale (species from Colombia, nowadays Cyrtochilum orgyale) which was upside down. It has not been corrected. It was not on purpose. It was a lot of work, 2 big volumes. However in the part of the art, I had a problem. The proof did not come and I received the guarantee that every thing was exactly as I had send and only by mistake, it had not come to be reviewed. Unfortunately it was not and that left Cristina Miranda and I in a very bad position. Cristina was responsible for the part of arts. Briefly, I did not see those proofs, I just saw it ready, published.

However your name is not in the cover of the book and you were effectively the editor.

Neither in the editor's forewords. My name only appears in page 13, in lower letter, in the organizing committee as editor of the Proceedings. Only who reads this page, with good will, will be informed about it. Who is interested in knowing about the WOC organizing committee? No one will read this. There is no interest.
If you pay attention, all titles, texts, all lectures have the author identified, such Raimundo Mesquita who wrote about the opening ceremony however the editor's name does not appear.
When the book issued, I complained about it inclusive with the representative sales here. E-mail has been sent to the publisher but he answered that it was missing because it is not habitual. This is not true. When he came here, he showed the Proceedings of Glasgow where I could see that the name of the editor is on the cover and he had his photo printed in the blurb of the cover. I just wanted my name in the cover. He argued that he would lose a lot of money but he got in because he wanted, he asked to come in, he knew he would lose money.
He also said that he would send a stamp to be put inside the book but he never sent it. Many people understood my indignation and showed me solidarity however the book is published and a few people know that I am the editor.


O. ciliatum. Photo/Foto:Sergio Araujo