PARK ADMINISTRATION, OCTOBER, 1953. p. 130

NEGLECT HELPED ORCHIDS
The following appeared in "The Sunday Times", on 8th February, 1953.

SYDNEY, Saturday. — Because he was too busy to throw away a contaminated culture bottle, Ramon Mas, Spanish-born Sydney orchid grower, has made a discovery which, he claims, may revolutionise orchid-growing.
The contaminated bottle contained a fungus which encouraged the young orchid plants to grow more than 200 times larger than others in the same planting.
Mr. Mas thinks the plants will come to maturity in two years less than normal time.
"Now that I have established the existence of a friendly fungus I shall look for other fungi which perform the same function," he told me. "Nature never makes one thing and one alone to perform any function."
Mr. Mas, one-time Consul for Spain, pioneered mushroom culture in Australia and sold spawn to home-growers. Then he turned to orchid growing as a sideline.
"I sell my orchids, like day-old chicks, to young men who fatten them for the market and sell them." he said.

Dr. van Son of Pretoria, one of our contributors on the growing of Orchids, comments on the above as follows;
"Mr. Ramon Mas' discovery is a rather old one, as the beneficial association of fungus and orchid was found out by Noel Bernard a little over 30 years ago, in fact the germination of orchids in nature is entirely dependent on the symbiotic fungus. What he did find, however, is a virulent strain, and it would be interesting to try and get a small tube of his culture, which I could easily propagate here; perhaps you could arrange this through the Horticultural Society? In my experience, the usual symbiotic fungus (a Rhizoctonia), when introduced into a flask prepared for asymbiotic culture, grows so luxuriously that it soon fills up the whole flask, leaving no room for the seedling's development. Therefore, it is also possible that the fungus captured inadvertently by Mas, is not a Rhizoctonia, but some other kind which does not overwhelm the flask; I had occasionally contaminations with fungi which did not find the medium too encouraging for their own growth, and which did not interfere with the seedlings, though they also did not accelerate the growth of the latter."
"I have been experimenting with adding antibiotics to the asymbiotic formulas, and find that they seem to inhibit the growth of contaminations. Unfortunately, I had no seeds except some very doubtfully viable Cypripedium seeds to play with, but will continue the experiments as soon as I have some fresh seeds. I have pollinated a flower of Lissochilus speciosus* (Zululand) with the pollen of Eulophia circinata and it has set a very nice pod. Besides, I have plenty of pods on Eulophia circinata. They might provide good material for experiments."

* Now Eulophia speciosa
† Now Eulophia petersii - the holotype of E. circinata came from Komatipoort.        GR.


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