Paph Hybridizing 101

All new cultivars originated, at one time, with just 2 species. When 2 species are bred together, the resulting hybrid is called a “primary hybrid” – this can also occur in nature if 2 species are cross-bred. As the parentage becomes more complex (with the species parents falling farther and farther back genetically), the result is a ‘complex paph”. These large, round, full petal paphs are also nicknamed “bull dogs” or ‘bull dog paphs”. The goal for each cross may be different – it may be a lager, fuller flower; a new, unique color; a ‘perfect’ miniature bloom; higher flower count or longer bloom time; but to be award quality, a bloom must exceed the merits of it’s parents and be outstanding in it’s own right.
Paph orchid breeding is a blend of art and science…and it requires an amazing amount of patience! First , a breeder will select plants that have outstanding characteristics that they want to see carried down to the offspring. They must be able to envision what the offspring from a cross of will look like. (Cross a yellow/green with a spotted red — what will you get?) Skilled breeders acquire decades of experience and knowledge about which plants carry forward specific traits, what colors are proven to be more dominate and which parent plants are the best breeders. (Some beautiful plants are poor breeders or even sterile.) Once a cross is made (the pollen from a plant has been applied to the staminode of the male parent plant) – patience is required. If fertilization occurs then a seed pod will slowly form. This seed pod will mature on the plant for up to a year. (Typically about 9 months.) Once fully mature, but before it dries out and turns brown, it must be cut off and sent to an orchid flasking lab. The orchid lab will open the seed pod in a sterile environment and sow the seed in a flask with a sterile auger based growing medium. Here the seeds will (hopefully) germinate and, over the next 1-2 years reach a ‘seedling’ stage that can then be sent back to the greenhouse and potted out. Any number of problems can occur in this process – the seed can be sterile and won’t germinate at all, the flask can become contaminated and the resulting mold will kill the offspring, or only a very small percentage of seed germinates and you only have 2-5 plants from the cross. A typical germination rate for Paphs is 60%,,,this means that out of 100 seed pods send to a lab, only 60 will result in viable offspring. Once the seedlings come back to the greenhouse, more patience is required, as they will take another 3-5 years to reach blooming size. So from concept to conception and then to being able to see the results of your cross will take 6-7 years!

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