Sergio Englert is an agronomic engineer, graduated by the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul and he is master of science by the Wisconsin University, USA.
With 50 years of experience in cultivating orchids, he has been, for many times, president of the local society (Círculo Gaúcho de Orquidófilo).
Since l980, he keeps his nursery (Orquidário Ricsel) and has already participated in many national and international orchid shows (Argentina, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and United States) and also gave lectures about the native orchids of his home state.
He also published a book about cultivating orchids and bromeliads (Manual Prático de Cultivo – Orquídeas e Bromélias) already in its second edition.
Sergio Englert is part of the history of the genetic improvement of species in Brazil and, specially, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul mainly with Cattleya intermedia with excellent results.
He has many thing to tell us.

ON: Sergio, Orchid News intends to tell a little about the history of hybridization and improvement of species in Brazil, since the beginning and under the point of view of those who have wrote it. In our first interview, with Álvaro Pessoa, you were one of the person mentioned as an agent of this history. But, before starting, could you tell us how do you started in orchidophilia?
SE: I started when I was 15 years old (so 50 years ago) visiting orchid shows of the local orchid society (Circulo Gaúcho de Orquidófilos) to which I became associate. As a boy scout, I collected and observed the orchids in the fig trees under what we camped.
At the beginning of the 80s I started to trade orchids seedlings and established Ricsel Orchids.

ON: Could you give us your point of view, since you also are the agent and the witness? I mean, what could you tell us about the history of hybridization and improvements of species in Rio Grande do Sul?
SE: One of the pioneers, in the 60s, was Dr. Walter Haetinger. He crossed many varieties of Laelia purpurata coming from the nature and obtained, after 30 years of improvements, excellent varieties of Laelia purpurata such as flamea, sanguinea, carnea, alba and russeliana.
From the Laelia purpurata flamea by Haetinger came those we have today, many of them were crossed with the famous Laelia purpurata ‘Milionária’ (This one which has been exchanged by a zero km car by Honório Trombini).
Dr. Haetinger has also been the pioneer in the improvement of Cattleya intermedia.
Laelia purpurata carnea
Laelia purpurata flamea 'Sergio Englert'

ON: What does it mean, a zero kilometer car for a plant? It really was worth so much?
SE: In the 70's decade, Mr. Honório Trombini got a division of a Laelia purpurata type discovered in the district of Torres, state of Rio Grande do Sul.
When Mr. Arno Kunz, an industrialist of Novo Hamburgo city, saw the plant blooming in Trombini's nursery, offered him a zero kilometer car in exchanged of the whole plant. Trombini accepted.
The flower of Laelia purpurata ‘Milionária’ besides to have a coriaceous texture petals, was well set (wide opened petals) and had good width sepals. Probably it was a tetraploid plant which usually transmitted the characteristics to the progeny.

Laelia purpurata russeliana

ON: It returns to the gold age of the orchidophilia, when great collectors formed a very special class. Nowadays, with the modern methods of reproduction, there is no possibility of existing an unique plant like that or is it possible?
SE: The gold age of orchidophilia still exists because I know collectors who do not sell your rare species or, if they do, they ask for really high prices. I have already exported plants which cost 3.000 U$ each.
In Rio Grande do Sul there are great collectors of Laelia purpurata and Cattleya intermedia, such as, for example, Mr. Otto Georg, Mr. Luis Petersen, Mr. Anselmo Menna Hoff and many others.
The methods of reproduction and sowing are nowadays technically much more developed but Mendel's law of genetic stay the same and sometimes, there is just one exceptional plant in a cross.
In the last Cattleya intermedia National Orchid Show in Gramado (Rio Grande do Sul), we had the chance to see a Cattleya intermedia type much superior than all we have ever seen.

ON: Which is the history of Cattleya intermedia var aquinii?
: Cattleya intermedia var. aquinii has been discovered at the en of the 19th century (1891) in the surroundings of Porto Alegre by Mr. Francisco de Aquino and, in his homage, it has been described with the name aquinii.

ON: Is it true that this unique plant gave origin to the others and any other has been discovered after that in the nature?

Just two plants have been discovered in the nature: "aquinii #1" and "aquinii #2". There is no register for any other.

ON: And what about the reason of its intense use in crosses and hybrids?
SE: It is a plant that is intensively used in the world for Cattleya hybrids because it transmits the 'aquinii' or 'peloric' form to the progeny.

Cattleya intermedia roxo-violeta  
It has been often used to improve Cattleya intermedia flamea and peloric.
Through its crosses with Cattleya intermedia roxo-violeta or amethyst, it was obtained the first Cattleya intermedia flamea roxo-violeta or amethyst, that have never been discovered in the nature.

Cattleya intermedia flamea

ON: Do you think that those varieties obtained from the crosses should have a particular epithet or should be named as 'varieties' like those found in the nature?
SE: To answer your question, we should explain that there are two kinds of varieties.
The botanical varieties are those described by botanists, in botanical works. An example of this is Cattleya intermedia var. aquinii. On the other hand, the horticultural varieties do not have any botanical value and are appreciated just by the orchidists such as, for example, a Cattleya intermedia flamea amethyst ‘Dona Lila’ or Laelia tenebrosa ‘ Marilene’ (Laelia tenebrosa ‘Seleção’ x Laelia tenebrosa ‘Chocolate').
In theory, there is not a flower just equal to another, so every one would be a horticultural variety but just the best would have a special name.

Laelia tenebrosa 'Marilene'
ON: Coming back to the orchid improvement, which is your role in this history?
SE: In 1991, we crossed Cattleya intermedia sanguinea with Cattleya intermedia flamea ‘Sangue de Boi’ by Haetinger, that originated excellent flamea, we also crossed Cattleya intermedia flamea ‘Sangue de Boi’ with Cattleya intermedia flamea amethyst ‘Dona Lila’, both descendents of Cattleya intermedia flamea var. aquinii. Besides those crosses, we did the list bellow and all crossed resulted in excellent varieties: type, wine color, alba, as well as flamea-wine and flamea purple-violet, besides orlata and orlata purple-violet as well as marginata and marginata purple-violet.
Year of 1985:
Cattleya intermedia frezina ‘do Tito’ x C. intermedia aquinii frezina
C. intermedia alba ‘Haetinger’ x C. intermedia semi-alba ‘do Osvino’
C. intermedia venosa ‘do Heitor’ x C. intermedia venosa ‘do Sergio’
Year of 1986:
C. intermedia tipo ‘Santo Antonio’ x C. intermedia 'Pintada do Tenente’
C. intermedia tipo ‘Santo Antonio’ x autofecundada
C. intermedia aquinii vinho x C. intermedia aquinii frezina
C. intermedia venosa ‘do Heitor’ x C. intermedia rubra ‘Capivari’
C. intermedia rubra ‘Trombini’ x C. intermedia rubra ‘Capivari’
C. intermedia alba ‘Dutra’ x C. intermedia semi-alba ‘do Osvino’
C. intermedia alba ‘Ivo Jacques’ x C. intermedia alba ‘Haetinger’
C. intermedia multiforme ‘do Nestor’ x C. intermedia tipo ‘S-4’
C. intermedia aquinii vinho ‘de Marchi’ x C. intermedia roxo-violeta ‘Montenegro’
Year of 1987:
Cattleya intermedia aquinii #1 x C. intermedia tipo ‘S-4’
C. intermedia aquinii #1 x C. intermedia ametista ‘do Taim’
C. intermedia aquinii vinho ‘Bolinha’ x C. intermedia aquinii #1
C. intermedia venosa ‘do Heitor’ x C. intermedia tipo ‘Santo Antonio’
Year of 1990:
Cattleya intermedia orlata ‘orlatão’ x C. intermedia orlata ‘orlatinha’ (which originated excellent types, orlata and marginata).
Year of 1992:
Cattleya intermedia flâmea (Cecília x Sauthier) x C. intermedia roxo-violeta ‘Pretinha’
C. intermedia vinho ‘#2’ x C. intermedia vinho ‘#1’
Year of 2000:
Cattleya intermedia flâmea roxo-violeta x C. intermedia marginata roxo-violeta

ON: So it is more than 20 years working with Cattleya intermedia. Which cross or crosses you consider as your 'masterpiece'?
SE: I consider as the best Cattleya intermedia orlata ‘Ennio’ x Cattleya intermedia marginata ‘Vera’ (see bellow, Cattleya intermedia orlata) and
Cattleya intermedia orlata ‘Orlatão’ x Cattleya intermedia orlata ‘Orlatinha’

Cattleya intermedia orlata

ON: Still talking about Cattleya intermedia, do you agree that the plants occurring in the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro would be, in fact, another species, different from those who vegetate in Rio Grande do Sul? Which would be the basic difference between them?
Cattleya intermedia occurs in the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. In fact it is believed that the geographical dispersion happened from the state of Rio Janeiro to the south. While the plants migrated from the Atlantic Forest to the South, they improving the qualities of the flowers (bigger, better set), finishing this work of the nature in the extreme of Rio Grande do Sul in the ecological reserve of Taim swamp.

ON: Who also could you mention in your state?
SE: We can mention Mr. Aldomar Sander, who started at the beginning of the 80s, with the famous cross S-4 which resulted in excellent Cattleya intermedia type, orlata and marginata, between them the orlata ‘Ennio’ and the marginata ‘Vera’.
Crossing those two plants, in 1992, we also obtained excellent plants type, orlata and marginata.

ON: Which is your speciality besides Cattleya intermedia?
SE: I like very much Cattleya leopoldii and the crosses I did resulted in excellent type of better form and color.
I also like to cross Cattleya leopoldii x Laelia purpurata to obtain Laeliocattleya elegans, a natural hybrid.

Laeliocattleya elegans
I also did many crosses to improve Laelia purpurata as well Laelia tenebrosa which gave origin to the famous Laelia tenebrosa ‘Marilene’, my wife's name.

ON: Which would be the crosses that stood out at a national level?
SE: And why not international level, since I have been exporting for the last 20 years.
I consider the follow as the best:
Cattleya labiata alba ‘Angerer’ x Cattleya labiata roxo bispo ‘Urbano’ (1992)
Cattleya labiata caerulea ‘Panelas’ x Cattleya labiata roxo bispo ‘Urbano’ (1991)
Laelia purpurata flamea ‘Evelyn’ x Laelia purpurata ‘Milionária’ – (1994)
Cattleya leopoldii ‘Dona Lucia’ x Brassavola tuberculata ‘General Osório’ (Natural hybrid called Bc tramandaí, 1993)
Cattleya leopoldii ‘Tessadri’ x Cattleya leopoldii ‘Gilberto Rohde’ (The photo of Cattleya leopoldii bellow shows the results of this crossed done in 1991)
Laelia tenebrosa ‘Seleção’ x Laelia tenebrosa ‘Chocolate' (the photo of Laelia tenebrosa 'Marilene' bellow shows the result of the this crossed done in 1996).

Laelia purpurata flamea ‘Evelyn’
Cattleya leopoldii (Cattleya leopoldii ‘Tessadri’ x Cattleya leopoldii ‘Gilberto Rohde’)
Laelia tenebrosa ‘Marilene’

ON: And what about the photo register of those plants?
SE: I don't have many because I sell the seedlings and as the quantity is limited, they are sold before I can see the flower in my nursery. I had the testimony of my clients telling about the plants they bought and were awarded in the orchid shows. For example, the crosses of Cattleya labiata I don't have a photo because I sold every seedling before blooming. But those two crosses resulted into a great quantity of high quality awarded plants.

ON: What you are looking for when you invest in a genetic improvement of a species?
SE: When an orchidist talks about orchid genetic improvement, he is talking about the flower.
A better flower is the one which presents wide and well set (flatted) petals, wide sepals and erect in the vertical, specially the dorsal. The ensemble of the flower should be the most round as possible in a way that we could do an imaginary circle connecting the tips of the sepals and petals. Those parameters are widely informed by the American Orchid Society for the species as well as for the hybrids.
ON: Just to finish, what could you tell us about the habitats in the state of Rio Grande do Sul?
SE: The habitat of Cattleya intermedia in Rio Grande do Sul spreads along the coast and also follows the margins of the five rivers which form the Guaiba Lake (Caí, Taquarí, Sinos, Jacuí and Gravataí). To the south, following the sea shore, those habitats are in the margins of the Patos Lagoon and in swamp areas with cork tree spreading until the ecological reserve of Taim, the last frontier.
Concerning the habitat of Laelia purpurata today is practically extinct and was also placed along the sea shore since Torres district until Porto Alegre, moving forward the interior, at maximum, for 20 kilometer.
The habitat of Cattleya leopoldii is similar to the one of Cattleya intermedia but it doesn't advance so far to the south. In most times, Laelia purpurata as well Cattleya leopoldii grow on native fig trees.

Habitat de Cattleya leopoldii

Cattleya intermedia no habitat

ON: And about the natural hybrids in your state?
SE: There are four:
Laeliocattleya elegans (Laelia purpurata x Cattleya leopoldii)
Cattleya x intricata (Cattleya leopoldii x Cattleya intermedia)
Laeliocattleya schilleriana (Laelia purpurata x Cattleya intermedia)
Brassocattleya tramandai (Cattleya leopoldii x Brassavola tuberculata)

ON: Thank you, Sérgio Englert.

Photos: Sérgio Englert

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