Saturday, August 30, 2008

Orchid Mutations

I posted a question about orchid mutation on a popular orchid list and asked what is the process by which orchid breeders attempt to get a desired flower color from an orchid for which not all of the orchids grown to produce the desired flower color end up actually producing the desired color. Some orchids will be spotted, others striped and a small percentage of the plants produce the desired flower color - usually a very beautiful color. This image is an example of Dtps. Minho Princess which shows the desired flower color in the foreground and the balance of the orchids producing striped flowers as seen in the background flower. This type of breeding is known as selective breeding.

Advances in orchid growing now allows the production of countless variations of an orchid type. Phalaenopsis for example is a genus that consists of thousands of variations in numerous colors like pink, purple and yellow. One can understand how the process of selective breeding can get complicated because one is breeding two plants in order to produce another plant with the desired flower. After the plants are bred, the grower will keep an eye out for the desired plant. From this crop, only a few of the plants will produce the desired flower color - others may have deformed flowers while others may be molted or spotted and the plant with the desired flowers will have flowers completely different than the non-desired color. This makes the desired plant with the desired flower color very rare. It is one thing to breed an orchid plant to produce a hybrid then clone that hybrid to produce more of that hybrid - which is usually the plant selected by the grower or hobbyist as the plant that will be "mass produced." Selective orchid breeding like is another game. Whereas an orchid grower/breeder can grow/breed an orchid to eventually produce a hybrid, selective breeding involves breeding an orchid whereby the product is two sometimes three variations of the same plant whereby the desired plant color is only a small percentage of the entire crop. In other words, here the grower knows producing 200 plants will only produce a few of the desired plant. He's asking himself, why aren't all my plants coming out the same? The question is, will hybrids from plants that have been selectively bred produce the same string of plants or do these plants all resemble the desired plant selected for cloning? (Someone care to post a comment and help me out here!?). This is a great topic because mutation can occur in various ways. Here is the answer to my question posted on a popular orchid list:

> Hi,
> What is the "process" by which orchid breeders attempt to create an orchid
> whose flower should be pink but from a crop of 100 plants only 25 produce
> the desired color. The rest of the plants are molted or spotted even a
> solid color. I was in an orchid nursery today and saw three variations of
> the same plant - Phalaenopsis Haur Jin Princess "M" as follows:
> Flower Variation One - Solid dark maroon color, heavy substance
> Flower Variation Two - Splash color almost striped
> Flower Variation Three - The desired color, a beautiful pink flower
> I am curious what this "process" is called, is it mutation?
> Your input is greatly appreciated.
> Thanks,
> SP


Since you did not specify if this was a meristem propagation or a hybrid cross, I assume it is a meristem grouping because of the "M" designation.

Theoretically a meristem propagation should produce plants that are exactly
alike, however, over time we have learned that 'it ain't always so', specially in Phalaenopsis. There are several theories that have been put forward, (i.e.. unstable genes, mutations, the meristem pieces being cut too small and some genetic material being lost, temperature variables etc..) but I have seen nothing that proves it one way or another. So I guess the bottom line is, we really don't know at this time, at least I don't.

If someone has some scientific documentation from a authentic source please send me a copy, as I would love to know and understand what is going on.

If my first assumption is wrong and this is a group of plants grown from seed, then it is just the genetic variability within the hybrid. After all this hybrid has 10 or more generations in its history and tremendous genetic variability.

Hopes this helps.


end of quote
Here is an example of a Phalaenopsis with deformed
petals. No doubt this is caused by genetic variability or
put another way, ehem... over breeding. After seeing so many
orchids, sightings like these are rare indeed. I have been told by
one grower that an orchid with all of the flowers on the plant deformed has tremendous value. Makes sense since only one maybe two plants in a crop of 500 plants will produce plants with flowers like these. This not being the desired flower (a flower only an orchid lover will love) growers will forego growing more plants like this. Since orchids are in hot demand right now, even the mutated plants like this one and especially with selective breeding plants, are still sold to orchid lovers. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I am especially fond of Phalaenopsis Ever-spring Prince "Plum Flower." This orchid may be the most beautiful pink Phalaenopsis in the world without a doubt. With a statement like that, this orchid better be good right? It is! The intense pink borders on fuschia. The flowers glow and can be seen in the distance to beckon the admirer to take a closer look. A touch of the flower reveals waxy petals coming from large, shiny flower buds. Much like Phalaenopsis Haur Jin Princess "M" (for which I do not have any images!!) this orchid - Phalaenopsis Ever-spring Prince "Plum Flower" produces an intermediate orchid whose flowers will have a splash affect on the face or thick stripes - not French spots which cover the entire flower but splashes. What is amazing is since the flowers are waxy, the petals will have remnants of one plant creating an interesting spectacle to behold from the splashes. Only the orchid hobbyist will marvel at this beautiful creation whereby the spots or splashes on the flower are intended to blend and create a solid color.

Another version of the same orchid plant is Phalaenopsis Ever-spring Prince "Plum Flower" which is like other solid colored orchids with waxy flowers (ie., Phalaenopsis Ever Spring-prince "881"). So next time you see a beautiful pink Phalaenopsis, take a closer look because that might be an orchid created through selective breeding. At least we can appreciate what it takes to create sometimes one of a kind orchids.

Now this is rare. One flower out of 200 plants looks like this one. Some Phalaenopsis orchids created by meristem process produces low crop counts because of the rigor of meristeming plants. Not to mention that some Phalaenopsis crops can be finicky whereby out of 200 orchid plants produces, because of the difficulty in growing that specific orchid, produces a crop of fewer than 25 plants. Of course this is another topic from orchid mutation, but one point is clear, some orchids although at first glance may not appear to be "rare" but they are. The definition of rare is "Of an uncommon nature; unusually excellent; valuable to a degree seldom found."

An example of an orchid that is hard to grow is Phalaenopsis Yu Pin "Pearl." Here is a plant that may start with a crop of 500 plants and from this only produce 300 flowering plants. I am making up these numbers to some degree nor do I know the exact percentages of which plants make it and which plants don't. But discussions with the best growers will tell you that this orchid is difficult to grow in mass.

I am not sure of the name of this orchid but I am sure it was a special orchid.

Perfectly formed Phalaenopsis Leopard Prince "SJ." Note the large, red labellum with a yellow center. Stunning.

Happy Halloween,