This is particularly surprising in the case of Phal. Veitchiana. It is comparable to Phal. Cassandra. Both are primary hybrids. Both Phal. stuartiana (parent of Phal. Cassandra) and Phal. schilleriana (parent of Phal. Veitchiana) branch relatively freely. Yet, to date, Phal. Veitchiana has scarcely been used in breeding. Only the ‘Orange Glow’, HCC/AOS clone of Phal. Ambotris has been widely distributed. It is somewhat fertile but only produces seed on an occasional, irrational and frustrating basis. It produced Phal. Rejeanne Piché (x P. venosa) but frequent attempts at remaking the hybrid have been unsuccessful. To date, it appears that it has transmitted this finicky breeding habit to its offspring. Phal. Kuntrarti Rarashati is another somewhat finicky breeder. Some clones serve as both a pollen and pod parent fairly readily, some will only work one way and others have yet to produce seed. The two best clones seen by this author are ‘I Hsin’, a brilliant orange flower with a yellow picotee, and ‘Bunker Hill’, a full yellow flower with a red overlay centrally. In addition to being flat and of good size, both of these clones have produced offspring. One of the most interesting multiflora hybrids ever seen by the author was a hybrid of Phal. Kuntrarti Rarashati and Phal. Carmela’s Pixie, registered as Phal. Taida Pixie. There were three multi-branching inflorescences bearing many oxblood colored flowers with brilliant red lips on a diminutive plant.
Next to Phal. equestris, the next most important plant in multiflora breeding is Phal. Cassandra. This hybrid between Phal. equestris and Phal. stuartiana was registered by Veitch in 1896. Phal. stuartiana branches fairly readily and this combination often produces multi-branched inflorescences bearing many small, often highly colored flowers. One of the reasons that so many people expect multifloras to be multi-branching is the large number of P. Cassandra-influenced multifloras. However, without the influence of either Phal. stuartiana or Phal. schilleriana, which also branches fairly readily, many multifloras cannot and should not be expected to branch readily. Despite its early registration, nothing was done with P. Cassandra from its registration until the 1960s. Nevertheless, it is without doubt the most important hybrid in multifloral breeding.
The hybrid itself has now been remade on many occasions. In addition to an alba form, which was made on at least two occasions, a presumed tetraploid cross was made as well at least once using P. equestris ‘Riverbend’, AM/AOS and P. stuartiana ‘Larkin Valley’, AM/AOS. As a rule, the offspring of this cross were relatively large and quite pale but a few did exhibit good color.
As stated above, Phal. Cassandra had no offspring until the mid-1960s but, even then, people wanted large flowers and it wasn’t until 1992 when 11 offspring were registered that the one-year registration of P. Cassandra hybrids went above 9 in one year. Since then, this magic number has been reached in all but one year. There are now just slightly more than 150 first-generation hybrids, with more being made and registered every day. Initially, the trend was to breed Phal. Cassandra to large-flowered Phalaenopsis, creating smaller-flowered versions. Occasionally, the names of the hybrids reflected that fact: e.g. such as P. Little Pink Doris (x P. Doris) and P. Little Netsuke (x P. Snow Leopard). There were other “small” hybrids which bear similar names such as P. Little Hal (x P. Peppermint) and P. Little Kris (x P. Pink Minuet).
The hybrid with P. amabilis, P. Timothy Christopher, has produced some very high-quality cultivars as well as some incredible offspring and is now being used extensively in hybridizing. Two of its better known offspring are P. Rong Guan Amah (x P. amabilis) and P. Sogo Lit-Sunny (x P. Sogo Lit-Angel, itself a P. Cassandra hybrid).
There are the occasional, albeit rare, forays into novelty breeding with P. Cassandra. Possibly the most famous example is P. Brother Sandra (x P. Brother Yew), which has several awarded cultivars. The flowers can be a brilliant red and have multi-branching inflorescences. They are fertile and several hybrids using P. Brother Sandra are beginning to bloom.
Two hybrids of Phal. Cassandra deserve individual mention: Phal. Carmela’s Pixie (x P. Terilyn Fujitake) and Phal. Be Glad (x P. Swiss Miss). Carmela Orchids registered Phal. Carmela’s Pixie in 1990. Not only is P. Cassandra a parent of P. Carmela’s Pixie but it also appears a second time several generations back. Many people consider P. Carmela’s Pixie to be the first “super” multiflora to be bred. There are several reasons for this. First of all, the hybrid was made and sold by Carmela and they sold, literally, many thousand plants. The original cross was made both ways (Terilyn Fujitake x Cassandra and Cassandra x Terilyn Fujitake) and both were available. Sib crosses between selected clones followed and many thousands of them were also sold. Secondly, the cross is extremely fertile. Thirdly, the overall quality of the cross was quite high and many people have used many different clones in hybridizing. Fourthly, the first plant to win the highly-coveted Hager Phalaenopsis Award was a Phal. Carmela’s Pixie, giving the cross an additional lustre. About 20 clones have received AOS awards.
The first hybrid with P. Carmela’s Pixie was registered in 1992. First-generation breeding with Phal. Carmela’s Pixie continues and there is now significant second- and third-generation breeding taking place as well. Some of the better known hybrids are P. Zuma’s Pixie (x P. equestris), Dtps. Elmore’s Sweetheart (x Dtps. Taisuco Candystripe), P. Brother Lovesong (x P. Super Stupid), P. Brother Oconee (x P. Brother Purple), Dtps. Brother Julius (x Dtps. Okay Seven) and Dtps. Brother Tom Walsh (Brother Julius x P. Brother Purple). Each of these hybrids has produced awarded progeny and has or will soon be used in further breeding.
P. Be Glad is the other important P. Cassandra offspring. Statistically, this grex is over 50% P. equestris. In view of the fact that this hybrid was registered in 1978, it has a relatively long track record. The hybrid was made by the late Herb Hager, then working at Hager’s Orchids. There is probably no one person more responsible for advancing the cause of multiflora breeding than Herb Hager. Prior to and during his tenure at The Orchid Zone, Herb not only extolled the virtues of small flowers but he was responsible for many classic multiflora hybrids in addition to P. Be Glad, such as P. Swiss Miss, P. Gladrose and P. Dawn Treader and many others.
With almost 20 awarded clones to date, there have been a few that have been used on a regular basis. Phal. Be Glad ‘Classic’, AM/AOS is one of the most frequently used. It was awarded early on and was then stemmed and made available to other hybridizers. The original cross was made with colored clones, producing small white flowers blushed pink centrally with a deep red lip. About 10 years ago, a white cross of Phal. Be Glad was made and these were widely distributed as well. It should be noted that several clones of P. Be Glad have exhibited varying degrees of fertility, which may account for the fact that the hybrids of P. Carmela’s Pixie will soon be as numerous as those of P. Be Glad in only half the time.
The two most well known P. Be Glad hybrids have species as the other parent: P. Ho’s Amaglad (x P. amabilis) and P. Be Tris (x P. equestris). Both of these hybrids are only about 10 years old, which means that their lives as important breeding parents have only just begun. Several hybrids including P. Brother Amar, AQ/AOS (Ho’s Amaglad x amabilis) and P. Bedford Innocence (Ho’s Amaglad x Timothy Christopher) have both produced outstanding flowers. Watch for them and their offspring.
Other notable hybrids of P. Be Glad are P. Ho’s Little Caroline (x P. Carmela’s Pixie), P. Fairy Tales (x P. Elise de Valec), P. Culiacan (Gato x Fairy Tales), P. Newberry Bouquet (Grand Cascade x Fairy Tales), P. Sogo Romans (x P. Otoglade [Be Glad x Otohime]), P. Nobby’s Amy (x P. Rothschildiana), P. Bedford Sneezy (x P. Terilyn Fujitake) and P. Glad Melinda (x P. Melinda Nan).
Many people would agree that P. Glad Melinda was not a particularly impressive hybrid in its own right. Only two clones received AOS awards but the grex obviously contained “the right stuff” because it has begun to produce some incredible offspring. Many of the older (over 5 years old) hybrids have received AOS recognition. Expect to see the same for some of the newer hybrids in the near future. The offspring include: P. Petite Rose (Glad Melinda x Gladrose) – 2 AOS awards; P. Small Sensation (Glad Melinda x Swansong) – 3 AOS awards; P. Gladrose (Glad Melinda x Melinda Rose) – 8 AOS awards; P. Zumita Blush (Fairy Tales x Gladrose) – 2 AOS awards; P. Joyful (Gladrose x equestris) – 3 AOS awards; P. Baby Angel (Gladrose x First Choice); and, one of our favorites, P. Bedford Grumpy (Zumita Blush x Miniflash). It is unfortunate but one of the things that P. Be Glad has transmitted to some of its offspring is fertility problems. Breeding with some clones of P. Gladrose, for example, has proven somewhat elusive while other clones exhibit normal fertility.
Phal. Baby Angel ‘Brother’ was purchased by Mr. Yung-Yu Lin of Brother Orchid Nursery on one of his buying trips to the US. It is one of only a handful of multifloras regularly used in novelty breeding. It has been bred to Phal. Brother Flare (= P. Brother Doll Art), Phal. Brother Peak (= P. Brother Doll World), Phal. Brother Delight (= P. Brother Pico Circle), Phal. Brother Kaiser and Phal. Super Stupid (P. Brother Little Spotty, which has awarded progeny).
Several nurseries have contributed to the promotion of multifloras, probably none more so than the Orchid Zone. Also, as stated above, Carmela Orchids was responsible for the first multiflora “superstar”, Phal. Carmela’s Pixie. Zuma Canyon Orchids has mericloned many fine plants including many multifloras at reasonable prices. Very few nurseries have made many multiflora hybrids. Much of the progress has come from nurseries that have bred only one or 2 multiflora hybrids.
Large-scale multiflora breeding is a relatively recent phenomenon and there is not a great deal of breeding history for us to evaluate. How do you judge them? In accordance with the Handbook on judging, multiflora phalaenopsis (like all other orchids) should be judged based upon their parentage. Multifloras come in all shapes from very starry and heavily reflexed to quite full and perfectly flat. In multiflora breeding, is bigger necessarily better? Despite what the Handbook may say, many breeders would prefer an extra branch on an inflorescence or a few more flowers to an extra centimeter of flower size. One fault of many multifloras is the arrangement of the flowers on the inflorescence. Phal. equestris usually has flowers that go all the way around the inflorescence and many multifloras will have some poorly displayed flowers. It’s inherited and to be expected. Multifloras cannot and should not be lumped together in groups. As with all phalaenopsis, the parents determine the outcome. The colors vary and are quickly becoming as widespread as standard phalaenopsis.
Multiflora breeding is truly in its infancy. In 40 years, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Be patient! As today’s multifloras produce ever-increasing numbers of hybrids, expect to see more and better multifloras, even perfect red and yellow multifloras – probably sooner than you’d think! Tomorrow will be a colorful day.