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Hereditary Influences of the Cattleya Alliance

The species illustrated below appear in the background of today's modern Cattleya Alliance hybrids. Each plant imparts certain traits such as color, form or size to its progeny and hybridizers have capitalized on these traits. This list of species and the traits enumerated was first published in the AOS Bulletin in January 1960 and they continue to withstand the test of time. Species names listed reflect currently accepted nomenclature.




Brassavola nodosa is nearly dominant in all respects producing large flowered, summer-blooming hybrids with clear base colors. Pseudobulbs are thin, often nearly cylindrical with narrow leaves. Flowers may often be cupped and spots are commonly produced. The species blocks the production of red pigments.



Cattleya aclandiae hybrids typically produce small growths and flowers are somewhat cupped. This species spots and flower color are usually recessive in the first generation. The spots will often appear in second and third generation hybrids. The species usually dominates flower shape, isthmus lip and flower count.



Cattleya candida (also called C. quadricolor and C. chacoensis) tends to produce pastel colored flowers of soft substance. The typcial cupped presentation of this species is recessive.



Cattleya (Laelia) cinnabarina contributes dominant orange color, medium-size flowers and good flower count. The shape is nearly dominant with a very small lip and flowers typically have no fragrance. Cattleya cinnabarina often transmits it's very thing pseudobulbs to its progeny.



The yellow form of C. cinnabarina has been used to produce clear, bright yellow flowers in its progeny.



Cattleya coccinea (Sophronitis coccinea dominates plant size (small), color, shape, short flower stem and flower count (low). Flowers are flat with small lips, no fragrance and excellent lasting qualities. Hybrids with this species in the background tend to flower at random throughout the year. When crossed to lavender parents bright purples are produced.



Cattleya (Laelia) crispa has been used to increase flower count however colors produced tend to be pastel and the crimped lip of this species is usually dominant.



Cattleya dowiana has been used to intensify lavender. Its lip pattern and fragrance are dominant as is its summer flowering season. While this species imparts good shape and size, crippling was common in early hybrids and the flowers do not have good lasting qualities.



Cattleya (Laelia) flava has been used to create yellow to bronze-colored flowers. The species dominates its hybrids in flower shape, size, small lip, lack of fragrance, and growth habit.



Cattleya forbesii is another species that features in the development of bronze and yellow hybrids. It imparts good flower substance and flat conformation, however its open shape and small lip are dominant as well. Other dominant traits are its thin pseudobulbs and low flower count. It's hybrids however tend to flower on every growth produced throughout the year.



Cattleya granulosa, and other closely related species, dominates its hybrids in shape, size, growth habit, lip shape, flower count, and heavy substance. Its hybrids tend to have flat flowers. This species has been used to produce red to bronze-colored hybrids.



Cattleya (Laelia) harpophylla expresses similar breeding traits to C. cinnabarina. Its orange color, high flower count, flat conformation, flower size, and small lip are dominant traits. Its hybrids tend not to have a fragrance. This species has extremely thin pseudobubls that are almost reed-like and its hybrids will also have characteristically thin pseudobulbs and moderate plant height.



Cattleya intermedia features in the background of a very many medium-sized spring blooming cattleya hybrids. The species dominates its hybrids in flower count, growth habit, flower size, flower size and lip shape. Its hybrids tend to have pastel flowers.



C. intermedia var. aquinii is the source of today's modern splash-petal cattleyas. The early hybrids suffered from poor shape with the petals pulled more or less forward over the column. Continued line breeding and back crosses to flatter parents have now lead to splash-petal hybrids of good flat form.



Cattleya labiata is an extremely variable Cattleya species. The lavender-flowered group dominates for flower color, lip color pattern, flower shape, size and substance.



Another example of the variablity in C. labiata is this "blue" color form. The blue color is recessive unless mated to other blues. The species flowering is triggered by day length variation and it and its resulting hybrids can be controlled by careful control of the day length.



Cattleya loddigesii is another species, along with a the very closely related C. harrisoniana, that features strongly in the background of spring blooming small- to mid-sized hybrids. The species, especially polyploid cultivars is extremely dominant with respect to flower color, size, growth, and number of flowers, shape and small lip. Fine, but sparse spotting of the sepals and petals is a common characteristic. The plants are vigorous and hybrids often bloom twice a year.



Cattleya leuddemanniana, a beautiful flower in its own right, has been little used in hybridizing. The species flowers in March however flowering of its hybrids is typically controlled by other species in the background. The species has poor substance and tends to pass this along to its hybrids along with a tendency to limit number of flowers to two.



Cattleya maxima, an Ecuadoran species, imparts vigorous growth, good texture, lip pattern, good substance and dark colors to its progeny. The species occurs in two races; one with few but large flowers and the other with many more but smaller flowers. When cultivars with many flowers are used in hybridizing, good flower count can be expect. Among the negative traits sometimes seen are poor shape and a tendency for the petals to reflect along the midribs giving the flowers an undesireable open conformation.



Another of the so-called labiate cattleyas, Cattleya mossiae is a mainstay in the development of spring blooming cattleyas. The lip pattern in this species dominates its hybrid and the species also imparts good flower count.



Cattleya percivaliana has often been called the "Christmas Cattleya" because of its sharply defined winter flowering season. The plants are some of the smallest of the labiate cattleyas and this small stature and winter flowering season are transmitted to its hybrids. On the negative side, the species has not been used often because of its musky fragrance.



Cattleya (Laelia) pumila features in the background of many miniature cattleya hybrids. This terrific miniature species imparts excellent texture, good substance and small vigorous growth habit. Its purple color is also dominant. The species produces a single flower and, like C. coccinea, produces few-flowered, non-seasonal flowering hybrids.



This tremendous Brazilian species, Cattleya (Laelia) purpurata features prominently in the background of many large-flowered spring cattleyas. The species is extremely variable and can be found in colors from white through blue to purple and even ones with pink lip markings. Many cultivars have streaked and suffused petals. Its strong spring flowering season, lip pattern and lip shape are dominant. In first generation hybrids, its color and shape are often dominant. In more complex breeding, its open shape is recessive but its strong flower stem is dominant.



Cattleya rex is not often seen in today's collections but has recently become more available. The species, like C. dowiana intensifies lavender in its hybrids. Other dominant traits are vigorous growth, fair shape, good size, and lip pattern.



Cattleya schroederae imparts a very strong winter flowering season to its progeny. The species has been instrumental in producing delicate, clear, pastel-colored flowers. Other traits are ruffled flowers and relatively small flowers. It unfortunately tends to also contribute weak substance.  



Cattleya tenebrosa is another former brazilian Laelia species now transferred to Cattleya/ The name tenebrosa refers to the intense bronze-brown color of the flowers - dark in a sinister sort of way. This species is dominant for size, shape and color and has been used in the development of large bronze flowers.



Cattleya guttata is very closely related  to C. tigrina  (leopoldii) and the latter has often been considered a varietal form.  The two have been more or less used interchangeably in hybrids and impart very similar traits although C. guttata can be distinguished from C. tigrina by the fact that it flowers from a dry sheath. The bifoliate (two-leaved) plants are very tall and impart this characteristic to their hybrids. In addition, they are dominant for color, high flower count, lip shape and color, heavy substance, nearly flat flowers and a very strong summer flowering season.



Another labiate cattleya that features prominently in large-flowered hybrids is Cattleya trianae. This species is fall and winter flowering and dominates its hybrids with a very strong winter flowering season. Like C. mossiae, flowering can be timed by careful control of day length. The small lip is also dominant as is vigorous growth.



One of the warmest growing species in the genus is Cattleya violacea and this species imparts this warmth requirement to its hybrids. The species is also dominant for flower color and shape as well as imparting flat conformation to its hybrids.



Cattleya walkeriana and the closely related species C. nobilior are dominant for growth habit, flower shape, size, and dark color, excellent texture and powerful fragrance. The flowers are flat and the isthmus lip is also dominant. The species produce few flowers per inflorescence and this low flower count is also imparted to its progeny.



Cattleya warscewicii (gigas) is the source of size! No other species in the genus can compete with these huge flowers that can be 8 or more inches across. The species is summer flowering and passes this strong summer flowering season on to its hybrids. Good flower count, bright colors, ruffling of the flowers and soft substance are also traits passed to hybrids.



Long known horticulturally as Diacrium bicornutum, the correct name for this genus is Caularthron. This species tends to block the expression of most pigments, the result being pastel-colored hybrids. Flowering in this species is sequential and its hybrids tend to open their flowers over long period of time. It is not uncommon in hybrids to have a number of flowers open and still have small buds coming along.



Encyclias dominate their hybrids and E. cordigera is no exception. Hybrid with standard cattleyas tend to have larger flowers but the shape of the Encyclia parent. Dark cultivars of E. cordigera tend to impart dark colors to their hybrids.



Epidendrums also tend to dominate their intergeneric hybrids and very little work has been done along these lines. Epi. ciliare is very dominant for flower shape, size, and growth habit. In some hybrids, the sepals and petals are prone to reflexing along the midribs to give a very open conformation.



The so-called "reedstemmed epidendrums" are also very dominant in all respects in their hybrids. Even hybrids of C. coccinea have reedstemmed growth habit and flowers that look nearly identical to the Epidendrum parent.



Long known as Cattleya aurantiaca this species is now called Guarianthe aurantiaca. The species has no fragrance and its hybrids typically do not have fragrance. The species is dominant for flower shape, growth habit, number of flowers, good substance, strong color and good texture. The species tends to have slightly cupped flowers and this trait is also passed on to it's hybrids. When mated to larger flowers, the hybrids have good flower size and strong clear colors. is strongly spring flowered as are the vast majority of its hybrids.



Guarianthe bowringiana is another species that, until recently was considered a member of the genus Cattleya. It has been used extensively in hybridizing to produce deeply colored, so-called cluster hybrids. Like Gur. aurantiaca, Gur. bowingiana has no fragrance and most of its hybrids do not either. The species is dominant for shape, very vigorous growth habit, flower count, color, excellent texture and strong, clear color.



Gurianthe skinneri (Cattleya skinneri) is the third species in this genus that features prominently in small- to medium-sized multifloral cattleya hybrids. Most of the comments made about Gur. bowringiana also apply to this species. The majority of those cultivars in cultivation called albas actually have a small spot of purple deep in the lip throat. As such they are not true albas and hybrids using these cultivars produce pink or lavender flowers.



This vigorous Mexican species, Laelia anceps, features prominently in the development of cold tolerance in cattleyas. The species is dominant for its long inflorescence and characteristic four-angled pseudobulbs. The species imparts good shape, size, substance, and flower flatness to its hybrids. The color is recessive allowing hybridizers to develop a wide range of colors with the exception of yellow.



Until recently this group of species belonged to a genus called Schomburgkia but have now been moved to Laelia. Laelia splendida and its relatives produce hybrids with very long inflorescences with the flowers clustered near the tip and feature prominently in the development of bronze and orange novelties. They are dominant for vigorous growth and flower count. Because of their ruffled flowers, hybrids tend to produce flowers with wavy flower segments.



This species has a checkered past with respect to its name. At one time or another, this species has been included in Cattleya, Epidendrum, Encyclia, and Euchile but is now called Prosthechea citrina. The species hasn't been used much by hybridizers but there are a few interesting hybrids. The species grows upside down and this awkward growth habit, when coupled with more normal upright parents often results in plants that are best mounted to accommodate their intermediate habit. The species is powerfully fragrant and imparts that trait as well as heavy substance and flower cupping to its progeny. Unfortunatley, the species produces only one or two flowers on an inflorescence and the low flower count is dominant.



Rhyncholaelia digbyana (long known as Brassavola digbyana) is the source of those wonderful fringed lips in complex hybrid cattleyas. Hybrids are very vigorous and exceptionally fragrant. The shape and fringed lip is dominant along with heavy substance. Hybrids with Rhyncholaelia digbyana as a direct parent usually have only one or two flowers per inflorescence but those flowers can be very large. The species requires high light to flower well and many of its hybrids also share this requirement. Hybrids can flower at any time of the year.