11 Orchids Often Recognized by AOS Judges
FOR SEVERAL DECADES, AMERICAN Orchid Society judges have operated with a consistent judging system for evaluating and recognizing orchid excellence. Efforts are made by AOS judges to ensure that a species or hybrid that receives a particular award at one judging center would receive similar results at another center in a different part of the country. Indeed, the same standards apply when an AOS judging team evaluates orchids and grants AOS awards at a foreign orchid show.
Plants and flowers being considered for an award are compared with previous award winners of their species or grex. Measurements and images of past winners are available to judges to facilitate comparison. Award information is kept up to date throughout the judging system, as data on recent awards is usually available to judges within a few weeks or months from the time that they are granted.
It is common for judges to be presented with an orchid for evaluation that has not previously received an AOS award. In such cases, judges must make comparisons with orchids of similar type or breeding. Hybrid orchids can occasionally be challenging to evaluate, but it is accepted that they should reflect an improvement over the parent species or hybrids that produced them.
Anyone who takes time to peruse a list or database of AOS awards will likely make some interesting obser-vations. Plenty of species and hybrids, probably the vast majority, have received fewer than a half dozen awards over the last 30 or 40 years. Yet, there are others that have been recognized time and time again, accumulating dozens of awards.
There are many reasons for this. Obviously an orchid’s popularity and ease of culture can do much to assure that it gets to judging tables frequently, thus offering the opportunity for many awards. Yet it is generally accepted among judges that, as time passes, equivalent entries do automatically deserve the same award. To put it another way, it is often expected that as the years pass, better cultural techniques or selective breeding would produce an even better result.
Indeed, some species and hybrids seem able to achieve this. In the case of species orchids, selective breeding, sibling crosses and induced polyploidy have produced, over time, individuals of such improved form and larger size that they bear little resemblance to their wild brethren. Over the years, a few hybrids, either because of their landmark achievement in breeding, or perhaps more often because of an unusually broad range of quality in floral expression, have seemed to create frenzy in the judging community. Certainly, too, there are some orchid species and hybrids that never cease to attract attention. Among experts and novices alike, they always catch the eye in an orchid display or on a judging table, although the reasons for this may be hard to put into words. It is some pleasing combination of form, dim-ension and color that appeals to human beings.
Following are a few of the orchids that have received acclaim from orchid judges again and again. They represent a variety of orchid types and include both species and hybrids. Some of the hybrids are modern classics; one or two are of more recent introduction.
Ascocenda Yip Sum Wah (V. Pukele × Asctm. curvifolium) Among the most-awarded orchid hybrids, it was registered by Fukumura in 1965. The first award came in 1969 and it continued to be a consistent winner throughout the 1970s, eventually collecting more than 100 AOS flower-quality awards. Winners often produced more than two dozen flowers per inflorescence and were renowned for exceptionally good flower form. The color palette was generally in fiery warm hues, some with bold patterning.
Odontocidium (syn. Colmanara) Wildcat (Rustic Bridge × Crowborough) Registered by the Rod McClellan Co. in 1992, it has been the recipient of more than 50 AOS flower-quality awards and a number of cultural awards as well. It is among the most-awarded inter-generic hybrids within the Oncidium/Odontoglossum clan. Award winners typically produce large branched sprays of richly colored waxy blooms. The base color of the flower is often a white or yellow hue that is overlaid with burgundy or brown patterning, barring or spotting. In some cases, a solid mahogany or burgundy shade is expressed. Beginning in 1992, this grex was a frequent winner for a dozen years.
Laelia purpurata This lovely Brazilian native was described by John Lindley in 1852. It is among the best examples of the visual intrigue inherent in a naturally occurring orchid species of the Cattleya alliance. Most well grown specimens produce clusters of typically four to six blossoms that individually may span 6 inches (15 cm) or more. The petals and sepals are rather narrow and often twist or arch a bit, adding a natural grace and species appeal. Many color forms exist, although most sport white or light colored segments with a darker, contrasting trumpet shaped lip. Color variations and breeding improvements have undoubtedly helped this popular orchid win nearly 100 AOS flower-quality awards and more than a dozen cultural prizes.
Paphiopedilum rothschildianum The genus Paphiopedilum receives more awards than any other. The species within it offer many variations on the pouched-orchid theme and have inspired breeders and fanciers of these Asian orchids for decades. Paphiopedilum rothschildianum is a perennial favorite and is among the most awarded, with more than 120 AOS flower quality awards, including nearly 30 FCCs. The flower is indeed hard to resist. Its petals are narrow, and when carried in a particularly horizontal plane, can extend to nearly a foot. Add attractively striped sepals and a pouch that seems to perfectly balance the whole, and you can appreciate why this would be a favorite, even if just one flower were produced on each stem. But Paph. rothschildianum compounds its impact by producing several flowers per inflorescence, which, when well arranged, are breathtaking.
Cymbidium Lillian Stewart (Balkis × Carisona) Registered by Stewart Orchids in 1955, this oldie but goodie has accumulated more than 80 awards. Most examples sport an ivory flower flushed or shaded with pink tones. It has unusually round sepals and petals for its time and a rather open form for a cymbidium. The hybrid’s lip is often shaded and spotted in darker tones, providing a good focal point for the flower. The majority of awarded clones were acknowledged before measurements and descriptions were taken. It was a big winner from the late 1950s through the early 1970s.
Lycaste skinneri Over the years this Central American species has garnered nearly 90 AOS flower-quality awards, making it by far the most awarded within its genus. This is another species that has produced a wide variety of color variations, although most are generally white to pink, often with a darker lip. The three wide sepals are the dominant presence of the flowers; its petals are reduced and enfold the lip. The blossoms’ triangular aspect combined with their typical carriage is refreshingly cheerful. Lycaste skinneri is one of those orchids that seem to be universally appreciated by orchid lovers.
Paphiopedilum Macabre (suk-hakulii × Voodoo Magic) This hybrid has totaled nearly 120 AOS flower-quality awards since its registration by Orchid Zone in 1990. The grex rode the crest of the vinicolor paphiopedilum craze of the 1990s. However, it produced not only outstanding darkly colored examples, but award winners with green and white coloration too. Wonderful warts on the petals and a shiny texture typify many examples. It has continued to win awards into the 21st century.
Vanda (syn. Euanthe) sanderiana Among the most-beloved Vanda species, it has acquired more than 115 AOS flower-quality awards, including 10 FCCs. Vanda sanderiana is native to the Philippines and grows as an epiphyte on seaside trees. It was discovered in 1882. The flower’s roundness and two-tone coloration are captivating. Spotting and tessellation bring interest to many examples. Similar to some other orchids, a variety of color variations have been found. The species figures prominently in hybrid vandas.
Tolumnia (syn. Oncidium) Golden Sunset (Stanley Smith × Tiny Tim) Registered in 1975, the hybrid has achieved a total of nearly 50 AOS flower-quality awards. It is the happy result of a combination of several colorful Tolumnia species. Award winners have been variable in coloration, which helped to keep the grex a consistent winner from the late 1970s throughout the 1980s. Blossoms with white or shades of orange, yellow, red, burgundy and combinations thereof have continued to attract the attention of judges into recent years.
Phalaenopsis Orchid World (Malibu Imp × Deventeriana) Just when orchid fanciers could not seem to satisfy their appetite for yellow phalaenopsis, along came Phal. Orchid World. It is a landmark hybrid, having won nearly 100 AOS flower quality awards. Most examples produced waxy yellow flowers that usually had darker barring and spotting that was variously described as red, pink or magenta in color. Flat flower form was remarkably consistent. Registered in 1984, the grex was a popular winner during the late 1980s and 1990s.
Phragmipedium besseae Discovered in Peru in 1981 and described in the American Orchid Society Bulletin that same year, this fabulous orchid in a rather short time has managed to acquire nearly 100 AOS flower quality awards. The introduction of this brilliantly colored Phragmipedium created a sensation and launched a phragmipedium hybridizing frenzy. Better forms with larger size have kept this species in the winners’ circle from the latter 1980s up to the present time. While the red-orange color is typical and receives most of the awards, other color forms exist.