USA Pleione source and hybridization prospect
Wed, 01 Feb 2006 16:22:31 PST
Does anyone know a good mail-order source in the USA for Pleione? I'm specifically looking for Pleione hookeriana and scopulorum, the latest in the season to bloom. According to Cribb their seeds resemble those of Bletilla (in the subtribe Arethusineae). Anyone know if Dick Cavender of Red's Rhodies is still in business?

I do in situ cross pollination of Arethusa bulbosa in the New Jersey Pine Barrens so as to ensure good seed set and propagation, together with yearly surveys and photographs with my friend Robert Yannetti of Pennsauken, NJ. Bob has managed to successfully artificially propagate Arethusa bulbosa and has even produced and bloomed hybrids of it with Calopogon tuberosus (Caloarethusa Poet's Song), Eleorchis japonicus (Elearethusa Trudy), and also Bletilla striata with Calopogon. The latter, while having bloomed, is difficult to cultivate as opposed to the first two hybrids, while Arethusa itself lives only a few years out of flasks (artificial seed germination nutrient media). Interestingly enough Arethusa bulbosa will live on indefinitely if reflasked frequently. 

I've tried to convince Bob of my opinion of the extreme morphological similarity of Arethusa corms, dormant bud, and flower scape with Pleione and even sent him a few dormant Pleione formosana to try to produce a cross, but no luck in either endeavor. The cross may, just possibly, be worth a try by me, or someone else, on the Pleione as a pod bearing mother plant if the later May-June blooming Pleione hookeriana is used. In particular a polyploid mother plant could give a greater chance of success. Other features of hookeriana and scopulorum differing from other Pleiones (and similar to Arethusa) are the tiny corms which may shrivel up if allowed to dry up during dormancy and the comparatively long flower scape. Bob has since retired from his artificial propagation efforts and it is, certainly for me, a much too daunting effort to raise and care for from seed, or even artificially cultivate, the fickle species Arethusa bulbosa. I do not advocate removing from the wild, excep
t by seed for propagation or in the case of rescue efforts, any native orchid species. Certainly the hybrids, and Calopogon, and other bog orchids such as the unrelated Pogonia ophioglossoides and Spiranthes cernua, can be successfully cultivated, and good commercial artificially propagated sources of these are around. Also easy, in normal garden soil and conditions, is the related Bletilla. (As we have heard Pleione can be tricky). But so far, even for experts like Bob, Arethusa bulbosa is a lost cause. 

For those of you who have luck growing Pleione (there's a few around?) it may be worth a try. When I exhibited one of Bob's Eleorchis Trudy at a judging about 9-10 years back it got an Award of Distinction from the American Orchid Society. It looked like a super dark, well formed Arethusa bulbosa, the color from Eleorchis japonicus. It had none of the Eleorchis closed form, and the two petals stood straight up above the flower in the perky rabbit-eared Arethusa form. This may just be a good trait to pass along into Pleione bloodlines. I managed to bloom more Elearethusa Trudy last year but my bog garden containers went through an iffy period when I moved to this new location several years ago. Giving them partial shade during mid-day as before I reset them has helped and hopefully I'll have blooms again and pollen to use late spring when they come out of dormancy.  May have a few extra pollen masses left over and can certainly save a bit of Arethusa pollen. 

Still waiting to hear if the (Pecteilis radiata x Platanthera blephariglottis), (P. radiata x Bonatea speciosa), and (Platanthera blephariglottis x Bonatea speciosa) seed I sent out to be germinated was viable...

Bonaventure Magrys
Cliffwood Beach, NJ

PS: Any gainful employment in any of this?

More information about the pbs mailing list