Francisco Miranda

Identification problems in Brazilian Cattleya species

The genus Cattleya, in a strict sense and not including the recent additions of other genera, have been one of the most reproduced and hybridized since the beginning of artificial propagation. Although this type of propagation is one of the more efficient ways to try to assure the preservation and future survival of the species, many problems have appeared due to it. Basically, these problems are:

  1. The absence of knowledge of the species themselves and their natural limits of variability have caused, more than once, unintentional creation of hybrid strains. Thus, more than ever a better knowledge of the species is the key for us to be able to preserve the entities in accordance to their natural limits. The fact that natural hybridization occurs, and is one of the natural ways of speciation, and the fact that these populations on the long run tend to intergrade and be absorbed, cannot be used as an excuse to use species that occur together to produce artificial hybrid populations.
  2. Another serious problem is what I call "tag syndrome". What happens here is that many times completely wrongly identified species are used and the only confirmation used by the grower is the written on the tag. If it says Cattleya loddijyesii, than it is C. loddigesii, whatever somebody that knows the species says. These attitudes — "what is written on the tag is enough" or "I bought the plants with this name" — are totally unacceptable if we want to try to warrant the preservation of species with reasonable certainty.
  3. Another problem, and this unfortunately has no solution, is that many growers who are producing a hybrid insist on selling the plants as species as long as the buyers keep accepting it. These plants usually grow well due to hybrid vigor and often produce flowers that are superior to those of the species and thus the reason for their production.

In many cases, the problem is more serious then the features of the plants and flowers clearly indicate hybridization, but it is impossible to find out one or more of the parents of the hybrid, and many times these plants are not primary hybrids but instead complex ones. In this case, we are frequently asked this way: "If it is a hybrid, which is the other plant used?" The answer is almost always very simple: "I don't know what it is, but I know what it is not!". These situations are sometimes difficult, and the growers answer back using the "tag syndrome", saying that they prefer to believe on what is written in there.
Anyway, we can still separate these hybrids, but if the next generations of growers don't have this knowledge the preservation in cultivation of several species will be hopelessly lost.