Not only to the people of Port Elizabeth, but to numbers from other parts of the country is the Orchid House in St. George's Park the centre of attraction throughout the year, but especially perhaps during the November-December season, for then this exotic flower is seen in the full glory of form and colour.
There are not many, however, who know anything of the process of growing the plant from seed upwards, and in fact it is only in the last few years that the Parks Department here has carried out experiments in the cross-pollination of orchids. It is, too, one of the few places in South Africa where such experiments have taken place.
The Superintendent of Parks, Mr. F. J. Cook, and his then hothouse expert, Mr. W. J. Burbridge, between them have so far successfully raised some hundreds of tiny plants from the seeds they have collected and prepared. And those seeds so minute that in their glass tubes they look like powder require a great deal of meticulous care, both in the preparation and in the handling. Everything connected with them has to be sterilised even the seed pod.
As soon as the pod shows signs of splitting it is taken off, scrubbed with a pad of cotton wool steeped in methylated spirit, the split part is cut off with a sharp sterilised knife and the seeds from the other half of the pod shaken into a test tube, also sterilised. The tube is then sealed with a thick wad of cotton wool which has been passed over the flame of a Bunsen burner, and then sent up to Pretoria for the next stage in their treatment.
Dr. G. van Son. who is the Entomologist at the Transvaal Museum and one of probably only two men in South Africa to understand the germination of this microscopic seed, undertakes this work in his own time, purely from the interest he takes in it and to help the Parks Department.
Top plant: CATTLEYA VELUTINA X C. FABIA, pollinated 16.2.45, flowered 8.2.51.
Sepals: light claret with a light brown tinge.
Petals: ditto, but lighter with faint venation
of delicate mauve.
Labellum: moderate cristation, undulating, magenta with deep maroon veining, golden throat.
Column: cream, dark maroon tip, scented.
Bottom Plant: CATTLEYA PETERSII X C. LABIATA X LAELIA/CAT "SUNBURST," pollinated February, 1945, flowered 9.2.51.
Sepals: buff with faint venation of mauve.
Petals: ditto, but clearer.
Labellum; bright purple with heavy venation of dark purple, gold bar at throat, unfortunately narrow.
A most striking fragrance.
Plant on left:
Sepals and Petals: greenish yellow shade with faint purple venations.
Lip: pale yellow background with deep purple venations, throat orange.
Plant on right:
Sepals and Petals: light claret with brownish tinge.
Lip: deep purple with deeper venations fairly undulating and cristate with golden throat.
Cattleya Fabia x Cattleya velutina was registered by Sander in 1911 as Cattleya Vivicans.
The CATTLEYA PETERSII X C. LABIATA X LAELIA/CAT "SUNBURST," is more difficult to decypher. The one parent Laeliocattleya Sunburst is a 1927 Charlesworth hybrid (Lc. Carmencita x Cattleya (dowiana) aurea) and was present in the Port Elizabeth Orchid collection, as they used it to make the hybrid Lc. Pink Moonlight. Cattleya Peetersii (note the double "e") x C. labiata made a hybrid called Cattleya Peter registered by Black & Flory in 1919 and sparingly used in further breeding.
This hybrid is thus likely to be Cattleya Peter (C. Peetersii X C. labiata) X Laeliocattleya Sunburst and is unregistered.
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