Myriad Interpretations on a Single theme
WHILE GREEN MAY NOT BE A common flower color, it occurs on both wild and cultivated plants. Long before my interest in orchids began, I wondered why gardeners would select a plant with a green blossom over one that would contrast better against foliage. Yet pictures of green gladioli, roses and even chrysanthemums, among others, were featured in the nursery catalogs I received year after year.
The only green flower that I found of interest was the perennial plant popularly called bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis). It produces distinctive spires of apple-green flowers, and perhaps too, it was the Irish association in the name that seemed to make the color more acceptable. Most of the other unripe shades, including the green-flowered forms of Christmas rose (Helleborus spp.), left me cold.
Yet when I became an orchid grower, I found the green-flowered types appealing. I think perhaps the verdant tones are better suited to the exotic shapes of orchid blossoms than some other types of flowers, and you can find green orchid flowers in many branches of the family.
An orchid flower may be green for various reasons. The first and most obvious is that it is the natural flower color for the species or hybrid. But in many cases, the greenish hues are one of several variations that occur in a particular orchid’s range of color expression. Also, certain yellow flowers, as well as some of the white ones, will open with quite a green tint that gradually fades as the blossom matures.
When the green or greenish flower is but one of a number of variants of an orchid, either a species or a grex, it is frequently referred to as an albino form. These are flowers that do not have red pigments expressed in them. Typically, they are green, white or yellow, or combinations of these colors. Some refer to these as alba forms, but that term is usually reserved for flowers that are pure white.
An orchid does not have to be an albino form or monochromatic green to be included in this discussion, however. Some of the most beautiful green orchids have contrasting purple lips. Indeed, green orchids frequently have white, red or yellow markings on them.
Many green-flowered cattleya hybrids seem to embody the mystery and romance of the jungle. A number of Cattleya species have contributed to green-flowered hybrids. Occurring frequently in the family trees of some of the best of these orchids are Cattleya forbesii, Cattleya bicolor, Cattleya granulosa and Cattleya luteola, as well as unspotted or alba forms of Cattleya guttata. Species of related genera in the ancestry of notable green hybrids include Prosthechea (syn. Encyclia) mariae and Rhyncholaelia (syn. Brassavola) digbyana, perhaps the most beautiful of all greenish-flowered species.
Among the green-flowered hybrids in the Cattleya alliance, sepals and petals on an individual flower are frequently a similar hue. The lip may be a like color, a lighter shade or may even be white. In many cases, green’s complementary color, red, infuses the lip for vivid contrast. Green, chartreuse and yellow flowers may occur in the same grex, and it is not unusual for green and chartreuse blossoms to age to a yellow hue.
Some of the classic green cattleya hybrids include Brassolaeliocattleya Ports of Paradise (Fortune × Brassavola [= Rhyncholaelia] digbyana), Brassolaeliocattleya Memoria Helen Brown (Xanthette × Lc. Ann Follis), Brassolaeliocattleya Greenwich (Lc. Ann
Follis × Lester McDonald), Brassolaeliocattleya Pennsylvania Spring (Spring and Summer × Brassavola [= Rhyncholaelia] digbyana), Laeliocattleya Ann Follis (C. granulosa × Ethel Merman) and Brassolaeliocattleya Cadmium Light (C. forbesii × Xanthette). Well-grown examples of these hybrids are still hard to beat. Many of these are descendants of Rl. digbyana, a popular breeding subject for its general form, petals and incomparable lip. It has a wonderful citrus scent as well.
Interestingly, many of the best green hybrids in the Cattleya alliance trace their lineage to C. bicolor as well. Cattleya bicolor, a rather variable Brazilian bifoliate cattleya, is usually employed in hybridizing with the hope of imparting its waxy substance and high flower count per inflorescence to the progeny. While C. bicolor lacks the broad floral segments sported by other Cattleya alliance species, there are those who appreciate the perhaps less refined style of the bifoliate group. The flowers of C. bicolor progeny are often recognizable by their “isthmus” lip (a narrow lip that flares toward the tip).
Green-flowered cattleyas are among the most beautiful of all green orchids. One could recommend several dozen different hybrids and still omit many favorites. A few grexes from the recent past to seek if you are looking for some green or greenish clones are Cattleychea (syn. Epicattleya) Siam Jade (C. Penny Kuroda × Cattleychea Vienna Woods [Cattleychea = Cattleya × Pros-thechea]), Proslaeliocattleya (syn. Epilaeliocattleya) Mae Bly (Pros-thechea mariae × Laeliocattleya Ann Follis), Brassolaeliocattleya Everything Nice (Memoria Helen Brown × Brassavola perrinii), Brassolaelio-cattleya Emerald Sea (Lester McDonald × Cattleya bicolor), Brassolaelio-cattleya Green Goddess (Autumn Glow × C. bicolor), Brassocattleya Binosa (Brassavola nodosa × C. bicolor) and Brassocattleya Green Dragoon (Harriet Moseley × C. bicolor), to name but a few.
The breeding of green cattleyas continues to progress. A recent award went to a green-flowered primary hybrid Brassocattleya Carnival Kids ‘Canaima’s Verde’, AM/AOS (B. nodosa × C. dormaniana). The flower’s lime-green sepals and petals are beautifully contrasted by a white lip with such intense fuchsia veining that, for practical purposes, it appears fuchsia.
True green has not been a color seen much in the ever-popular phalaenopsis, although some of the yellow-flowered hybrids are greenish when immature. A recent award winner, Phalaenopsis mannii ‘Sandra’s Best’, AM/AOS, is typical of most green phalaenopsis. The award description noted a yellow flower overlaid with green, but the overall effect was green, except for the lip. Reports are that this will likely change with the addition of Phalaenopsis braceana and Phala-enopsis stobartiana to the phalaenopsis gene pool.
Green and chartreuse are shades more frequently seen in some Vanda and Ascocenda hybrids. Ascocenda Kimberley Von Fox ‘Crownfox’, AM/AOS (Vanda sanderiana × Ascocenda Fuchs Gold), is a basically green flower with white on the petals and dorsal sepal. The grex relies heavily on Vanda sanderiana (syn. Euanthe sanderiana) breeding, a magnificent and variable species. Another recent award winner from the vanda clan is Vanda cristata ‘Lydia Merkle’, AM/AOS, which is a chartreuse shade with a boldly contrasting white and maroon lip.
The “wearin’ of the green” occurs with frequency among the slipper orchids, although in some cases, as with the Cattleya alliance, there are those that are arguably more yellow than green. In the complex Paphiopedilum hybrids, it is again the albino types of the species that produce some of the greenest flowers, but excellent green color may also appear on flowers that carry red pigments.
A number of the Paphiopedilum species have albino or alba flower types, including Paphiopedilum appletonianum, Paphiopedilum venustum, Paphiopedilum fairrieanum, Paphiopedilum insigne and Paphiopedilum haynaldianum. Among the sequentially blooming paphiopedilums, Paphiopedilum primulinum is typically yellow-green. Paphiopedilum malipoense is perhaps the most beautiful of all green Paphiopedilum species, with purple venation on the petals as well as typical dark coloration on the staminode. It has produced some remarkable hybrids as well, such as Paphiopedilum Ma Belle (malipoense × bellatum).
Lists of green paphiopedilums could be endless. Some striking examples come from the albino Maudiae types such as Paphiopedilum Maudiae ‘The Queen’, AM/AOS (callosum × lawrenceanum). Paphiopedilum Emerald (curtisii × Maudiae) is a grex of the Maudiae type with a name that leads you to expect it would always have green flowers. When the cross was originally registered in 1920, albino forms were used and the progeny were green and white. Subsequent crosses with nonalbino forms have produced Paph. Emerald clones that possess red pigment as well, even including vinicolor types.
To find the classic green complex hybrids look to such grexes as Paphiopedilum Alma Gavaert (lawrenceanum × Maudiae) (like most Maudiae types, not all are green and white), Paphiopedilum Sheila Hanes (Agnes de Burc × Caddiana), Paphio-pedilum Green Mint (Van Ness × Gwenpur), Paphiopedilum Clair de Lune (Emerald × Alma Gavaert) and Paphiopedilum Greenvale (Wallur × Golden Acres), among others. In more recent years, the grexes Paphiopedilum Greensong (Via Virgenes × Starburst) and Paphiopedilum Green Horizon (Makuli × philippinense) have received awards for green blossoms.
Several of the Phragmipedium species have flowers with a primarily greenish color, including Phragmi-pedium pearcei and Phragmipedium longifolium. Among the hybrids, some of the greener clones of Phragmipedium Grande (caudatum × longifolium) produce amazing flowers.
Hybrids from the genus Den-drobium also sport some flowers in beautiful green shades. Some have contrasting lips of eye-catching violet or purple. A couple of good green dendrobium hybrids are Dendrobium Burana Green (Chittraphong × Yong Kok Wah) and its offspring Dendrobium Green Fancy (Burana Green × Burana Fancy). From the nigrohirsute section, look for Dendrobium Green Lantern (Dawn Maree × cruentum).
There are plenty of green-flowered choices among the species orchids that are popularly grown by hobbyists too. The angraecoid orchids from the region about Madagascar and Africa include some species with greenish flowers. Angraecum eburneum and Angraecum eichlerianum are but two. The first Angraecum hybrid, Angraecum Veitchii (sesquipedale × eburneum), produces long inflorescences of greenish flowers that fade to white.
For an orchid with both an interesting growth habit and a charmingly unique orchid flower, the species of Aeranthes are personal favorites. These do best when grown in hanging pots so that their pendulous inflorescences are easily displayed. Flower color varies from cream to yellow or green. Aeranthes henrici has some of the greenest flowers in the genus. These are great orchids for low-light situations too.
There are several species in the genus Lycaste with green flowers. Lycaste deppei is one of the showiest. Other options include Lycaste leucantha, as well as two species now placed in the genus Ida — Ida (syn. Lycaste) ciliata and Ida (syn. Lycaste) locusta.
Numerous Epidendrum species sport verdant blooms. Perhaps the most spectacular is Epidendrum pseudepidendrum and its similar-looking hybrid Epicattleya Rene Marques (Epi. pseudepidendrum × C. claesiana). Both have lime-colored flowers dramatically accented with flaring lips of bright orange.
Others species to try if you are a green-flower fan include Brassia gireoudiana, Cymbidiella pardalina, Coelogyne pandurata, Coelogyne speciosa, Cycnoches warszewiczii, Cymbidium lowianum and Catasetum integerrimum, Catasetum viridiflavum and Catasetum macrocarpum. For variety, look for Notylia barkeri and Liparis viridiflora.
“It’s not easy being green,” sang Kermit the frog.
But, I might add, it certainly does not have to be dull.