Is this jenmanii alba?

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Nov 28, 2009
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Cambridge, UK
This is a seedling flowering for the first time and bought from Germany about two years ago, probably from Elsner. The label says jenmanii alba x self.
It would have been a South American import.
The flower started to open yesterday and seems to be a bit too ‘full’ in its shape to be typical for the species. It is 16cm wide and tall.
it’s a bit too early for the characteristic fragrance to kick in but I will keep watch for it.
whatever it is, I love it.
I wonder whether it is a selfing or a mericlone of jenmanii ‘fuch’s snow‘ FCC/AOS? It very similar. This is another disputed plant that may not a true jenmanii. It can join my other disputed plants!
A nice flower but until proven with other characteristics it is unlikely a jenmanii. The flower confirmation and size are wrong. Like Fuchs Snow, it might have other species in it.
Often just looking at the flowers of the unifoliates is really difficult to tell the different species apart or a primary hybrid. Typical for jenmanii would be blooming Oct-Dec after a short to several month rest from growth and from a single fairly narrow, tall upright sheath. The do not have particularly wide leaves compared to warneri or gaskelliana and are fairly small in stature compared to other species. While probably the most variable trait, I find jenmanii tends to have the greatest angle of leaf with relationship to the pseudobulb. Labiata generally has pretty upright growths for example vs. jenmanii has a fairly big angle between leaf and pseudobulb.
If there is evidence of a double sheath this would probably indicate a hybrid with some amount of warneri based on the bloom season you are seeing today. This would be further reinforced if this grew a new growth over the winter and is blooming right after the new growth matured and/or has a double sheath and/or wide leaves. This time of year jenmanii should be initiating new growth and after the growths get a bit of size, it will initiate root growth. They tend to be a little behind initiating growth compared to other very similar species like gaskelliana and labiata in my experience. Warneri on the other hand grows new growths staring in the fall, grows over the winter and blooms from a newly completed growth starting about now through June. It will then root after flowering, over the later spring and summer. Jenmanii also has pretty much the nicest smell of the nice smelling unifoliates (at least to my nose). What ever it "is", it is lovely and very well grown. Nice. Enjoy it.
Building my Cattleya species collection it became obvious early on that it can be difficult to know the provenance of a plant that is supposedly a species. I would like to have Geoff’s, Leslie’s, and David’s knowledge and experience with the species to be able to evaluate fragrance, growth habit, etc beyond just what a flower looks like.
Just a few more facts about the plant.
Facebook posts of this plant reveal that Palmer orchids bought some jenmanii seedlings from H&R nurseries which bloomed out with 25% alba and most of these looked like this one. So maybe there are some ‘commercial’ jenmanii plants around that look like this.
The plant has some jenmanii characters. It has the big angle between the leaf and stem. See photo.
The leaves are quite narrow and the bulb is not big by unifoliate standards, at about 15cm tall. The leaf is 20cm long and a maximum of 5.5cm wide.
This bloom is from a growth that has just matured and a single, not double, very narrow green sheath. The plant is also just starting to root.
I wouldn’t worry about the blooming date, the plant is not yet settled. It’s come from South America to Europe and then the UK in the past three years.
The only thing I have yet to test is the fragrance. It is just day three at present and I cannot yet smell anything. Hopefully tomorrow the scent will kick in.
I usually find that it takes that long for cattleyas to start smelling good.
There is another plant in low bud at present which was actually bought from eBay as jenmanii ‘Fuchs snow‘.It will be good to compare them together in a couple of weeks.
I am surprised by the size of the flower. Today its 17cm across.
My feeling is the same as Leslie, that it is not pure jenmanii. Someone has ‘improved’ the species and is now selling it as the real thing.
Terry, you are right about provenance. There is a real commercial incentive to improve species, sometimes illicitly, maybe get an award for one of the plants and then reap the financial rewards.
I've often wondered as an orchid aficionado that grows only species if I am aiding in the making of metaphorical golden retrievers over time or preserving wolves. In my collection, I have good representation of various Cattleya species from line bred coerulea tetraploids to tipos that are pretty representative of a very nice wild plant - the wolf with a very smooth and pretty coat in the analogy. I sometimes wonder in the quest for bigger, rounder, heavier substance flowers we loose a little bit of what makes the species unique and interesting in the first place. Then I think of a recently bloomed massive coerulea lueddemanniana with almost steel colored veins that is a stunningly beautiful and unique plant and I just enjoy it for what it is. No need to get too caught up in what it "is" unless you start thinking about making the next generation. Perhaps then you may want to ask yourself if you are aiming to make more wolves or golden retrievers and then figure out what your plant "is" or may be.
I'm curious when you perform the fragrance test.

Did H&R indicate parentage? I assume the other 75% were typo? That means both parents were half alba lineage.
Geoff,I have to agree. At the end of the day, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Plants that are distinctly non average but desirable from a collectors perspective are more likely to contain genes from outside that particular species.
Quite how they got there is anyone’s guess. Some of it maybe deliberate outcrossing but some may not. Introgressions via natural hybrids and then subsequent back crossing happens in quite a few species, especially in cattleyas where pollination barriers seem to be almost non existent.
Leslie, it is late morning on day four of this flower opening and the scent is there but definitely not pronounced. You have to stick your nose close to it to smell anything.
I have no more information than that from Palmers orchids. You’re right, both parents must have been carrying the alba gene but were both probably tipo’s.
Looking at more photos on line and how this flower has matured, it is a dead ringer for fuch’s snow. The plant that was awarded by the AOS had an NS of 17.5cm and this one is 17cm. Whether this is a mericlone or a selfing of Fuchs snow, I cannot tell and Regina Elsner who I bought it from has since retired.
I am surprised that it was awarded as a jenmanii by the AOS. It is so different to all the other albas on the internet. It has none of the grace that others have, it’s a big chunky bloom.
If I am growing Cattleyas just to have pretty flowers, none of this matters. I just look at it and decide if I like it or not. Maybe my standards change over time. However, if I am a collector trying to have specific species and primary hybrids, then the accuracy of plant identification matters. Like any collectable, rare and well known cultivars are more valuable and authentication is critical. That makes this discussion important for some, but not all.
Thanks Terry. I've been wrestling with this myself as I do some amount of hobby breeding. Perhaps better as its own thread at some point.

Would be great to hear more from others experience both from a collecting standpoint and a breeding standpoint. There are numerous examples of "fishy" species plants that are standouts possibly because they have an indiscretion in their genetic background. Lueddemaniana 'Cero Verde', trianae 'Mooreana', mossiae 'Willowbrook', eldorado 'Mt. Ito', there are many others. These are all fabulous plants that are special compared to the rest of their brethren, some from the wild and others probably not.

Trianae is a great example. A number of the nicest old wild collected clones from the southern part of the distribution would appear to have a chromosome count of 60 vs. the normal 40 for the vast majority of Cattleyas. (Per Cassio de Berg thesis project).
I know plants don't read taxonomy journals and while we humans like things neat and tidy the plants are just doing their thing, at least in the wild. While selfing/mericloning or dividing these seems quite reasonable, I sometimes wonder the wisdom of using them in outcrosses as this starts to get a bit murkier if we want to try and keep species somewhat true to their origins. I have AC Burrage x Rolf Altenberg and AC Burrage x Cashens. Both are crazy, huge beautiful flowers. Have been debating the use of these as parents.

Would welcome others thoughts on this. Pretty esoteric I know.
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Whether hybrids or species, comparing a diploid plant to a polyploid one is not fair, and yet it occurs frequently for awards and was probably with us from the very beginning with natural tetraploid/mixaploids. With space, time, and money, I would like to be able to have excellent diploid and tetraploid examples of the species! I would like to avoid having a hybrid of two species called a species of one. Without sophisticated genetic analysis it is hard to avoid this confusion.
Maybe in the next ten years the cost of genotyping individual orchids will become feasible. Until then, everything is guesswork.
I work as a professional plant breeder in agriculture and here we use these procedures routinely every day. We genotype an individual plants for about £30 with about 2000 genetic markers. The individual marker calls don’t mean much but when you compare them to many others, patterns emerge and you can start to make deductions.
It would help to decide if individual plants were hybrids or pure species.
I hope to be alive for that genetic sophistication but think of the distress that may be caused as important plants are determined to be something different than they are labeled. It probably won’t matter for complex hybrids, but there could be many surprises with species and primary hybrids.

In the back of my mind, I think my attempt to build a good collection of species and primary hybrids might be pointless if many of these plants aren’t really species or primaries any way. Maybe I should just be going for the prettiest flowers and most robust growing plants! Who cares about the breeding if it is frequently inaccurate anyway.
Ozpaph, I am breeding barley. Genetic markers for each species have to be developed independently. They do not work very well across species, so it maybe some time before the technology is available for cattleyas.
At the end of the day, I would follow the old breeders maxim of ‘cross the best with the best and hope for the best’.
It should be possible to work out some of the genetics of the parents based on the resulting progeny but beyond that, at present, all is guesswork.
This is something that I am super curious about. There are actually some good papers on molecular barcoding markers, for example walkeriana compared to loddigesii that have shown 'kenny' and 'pendentive' are of hybrid origin. Telling apart individual plants of a single species requires more info, but telling most of the populations of Cattleyas apart at the species level is actually pretty easy for the vast majority with just ITS and and a single plastid gene. Throw in a few more markers and there is pretty clear resolution amongst all of the species. I've actually played around with the data generated by Casio van de Berg in Genebank that was used to make phylogenic trees for Cattleya and it is certainly robust enough to be used to tell apart primary hybrids of look alike species like labiata and warneri or identify 'pendentive' and 'kenny' as likely hybrids or of hybrid origin. I'd be supper curious if I could get the cost and time structure down low enough to get the data to do some testing on my plants and others that were intersted. Would appreciate your thoughts of what this would practically take to make happen.

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