Love Them or Hate Them, Peloric orchid Flowers Grab Attention
ORCHID FLOWERS COME IN A remarkable variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Among these variations are some that are called “peloric,” a term that may apply to the pattern of color on a blossom, its floral anatomy, or both.
Peloria is a term used to describe the condition when usually irregular flowers, such as those of the typically bisymmetrical orchid, produce floral parts of each set that are alike, thus achieving radial symmetry (more or less). The term peloria (interestingly, Greek for monster) was coined by Linnaeus, the 18th-century Swedish botanist who established the binomial system of nomenclature, after he observed the condition on Linaria vulgaris (butter-and-eggs).
Whether you feel that a particular orchid flower is enhanced or ruined by the peloric condition is a subjective and individual reaction. It certainly can depend on the flower in question and how the peloria is manifested. The peloric condition occurs in several branches of the orchid family. Some of them could be called popular favorites among orchid growers, while others would be deemed freaks of nature.
The Cattleya Alliance has a variety of rather familiar peloric examples represented by any of the flared or splash-petal types. At least by some, the trait seems to be regarded as an enhancement to the flowers, rather than detraction. Perhaps this is because there are naturally occurring peloric varieties in several Cattleya species, including Cattleya labiata, Cattleya trianaei, Cattleya loddigesii, Cattleya intermedia and Cattleya mendelii.
However, there is one species whose contribution to splash-petal hybrids dominates the others. Cattleya inter-media fma. aquinii is found in the background of most peloric Cattleya hybrids. Its splash-petaled configuration is believed to have occurred at least three times in nature. When an aquinii variety of C. intermedia is crossed with Cattleya bicolor, the primary hybrid Cattleya Batalinii is produced. The clone ‘Patricia’, HCC/AOS, is a particularly dramatic example of this breeding. The splash-petaled influence of C. intermedia fma. aquinii also extends to many hybrids with more complex breeding, including Laeliocattleya, Sophro-cattleya and even Laeliocatonia grexes.
The Vanda Alliance includes examples of peloric orchids, too. In the genus Phalaenopsis, the trait is exhibited in certain lines of miniature and novelty hybrids that were pro-duced by breeding with peloric examples of the species Phalaenopsis equestris. These peloric Phal. equestris flowers were likely the result of inbreeding within the species. Phalaenopsis equestris ‘Cherryvale’, JC/AOS, represents a flower whose petals have mutated to the point that they are nearly mirror images of the lip.
A completely different style of peloria is represented by the complex hybrid Phalaenopsis World Class ‘Big Foot’, JC/AOS. In this flower, the lip has mutated to resemble a petal, rather than the reverse.
The final vandaceous peloric flower noted here is a rather unusual example that occurred in the hybrid genus Ascocenda (Ascocentrum × Vanda). Ascocenda Udomchai ‘Fuchs Peloric’, JC/AOS, is a colorful, if bizarre orchid.
In the genus Dendrobium, peloria is represented in the grex Dendrobium Kuranda Classic, which received more than a half dozen AOS awards. The flowers are about as round as wheels and are popularly called pansy dendro-biums. The peloria was achieved by breeding flowers with a lip that is virtually identical to the petals. Dendrobium Kuranda Classic ‘Quick’, AM/AOS, is a good example.
I have even seen a peloric slipper orchid. It was a Paphiopedilum with three pouches, more or less arranged in a triangle. While it was an undeniable curiosity, the overall effect was certainly “too much of a good thing.”
From a judge’s point of view, it is interesting to note that, generally speaking, peloric flowers awarded in the Cattleya Alliance, as well as those from the genus Dendrobium, receive AOS flower-quality awards, while those from the Vanda Alliance more frequently receive the JC (Judges’ Commendation), an award that acknowledges, among other things, a distinctive floral characteristic of the recipient.
Whether you love them or hate them, peloric orchids arguably repre-sent some of the most unusual examples within the incredibly diverse world of orchids.