Sunshine and Yellow Fever
Greenhouses just sparkle in July and August in the glare of the hot summer sun, and the landscape seems to radiate a yellow glow. Bathed in this golden embrace, the flowers of the great cattleya species, Cattleya dowiana hang like a yellow and burgundy necklace about the rays of the sun.
Cattleya dowiana is one of the most beautiful of the cattleya species and has been a treasure for collectors since its discovery in 1850. It is the only cattleya species of the Cattleya labiata group that has yellow sepals and petals, and with its dark crimson-purple lip veined with gold, it is magnificent.
Even Orchids Can Suffer From an Identity Crisis
When the Belgian orchid grower announced to the world in 1881 that his collectors in Colombia had discovered a new yellow-flowered Cattleya species, he set off a debate that has continued to this day.
The Pinocchio Orchid
One of the most delightful children’s storybook characters is the puppet, Pinocchio whose nose grew longer every time he told a lie. Lying, of course, is not a trait limited to storybook characters – or even people. Some orchids do quite well in this respect.
The Rainbow Cattleya
John Rolfe was one of the giants of the orchid world during the late 1800s. He was one of the most knowledgeable and hardworking orchid botanists of his time, and was ultimately recognized for his accomplishments with Britain's highest honors, including the Victoria Medal of Honor and the Veitch Memorial Medal.
A Cattleya by Any Other Name
The large-flowered Cattleya species have suffered from a bad case of botanical heartburn for more than 150 years — and some of the mistakes of the past never seem to be corrected. For Laelia purpurata, which is really a Cattleya, things even seem to be going from bad to worse, as I see recent efforts to reclassify this wonderful large and showy species as a member of the genus Sophronitis, which is composed of miniatures (Lindleyana, 15:118).
The Smoke and Mirrors Cattleya
Shakespeare must have been a frustrated taxonomist when he wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” because only a taxonomist would suggest the possibility of giving a rose another name. Names are what we give plants so we all know what we are talking about. They are the everyday words that simplify our everyday life. I know what a rose is, and an apple and a pear, but I am beginning to wonder about some of the names taxonomists are inflicting on orchids these days.
For over 24 years after its discovery in 1866, Cattleya dowiana reigned supreme in the genus as the only yellow-petal species. It was considered the most beautiful cattleya of its day by far, and it soon became the species most widely used in breeding the large flowered hybrids.