Phrag. Fritz Schomburg - of 2N, 3N, and 4N

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This post is about the evolution of an orchid’s quality as it’s genetics change. I am using Phragmipedium Fritz Schomburg (kovachii x besseae), registered in 2007 by Glen Decker at Piping Rock Orchids, as an example. Glen and Fritz were two of the small initial group of orchid growers who legally imported Phrag. kovachii to the USA and then propagated it and hybridized with it for legal sale.

Orchid judging is a bit like Olympic equestrian competition in having no gender or weight class separations. The skill of the trainer/rider (grower) is important, but the genetics of the horse (orchid) are critical. There have been mixed views over the years about the competition between natural diploid (2N) “wild type” orchids and polyploid plants (triploid/3N, tetraploid/4N, and even higher ploidy), particularly when these are chemically induced. Our understanding of the issue has been hindered by the lack of accurate and reasonable ways to determine the genetics of an orchid plant.

Even in the early days of wild orchid collection, the basics of plant genetics were understood, and growers knew that some obviously superior plants were genetically different from the standard wild type plants. These superior species were used disproportionately to create heritage hybrids and were line bred to create superior species for future breeding. Thus, many of our foundational species and hybrids were not 2N.

Modern studies show that polyploidy can result in more compact plants with wider and thicker leaves, though they may be slower growing. The flowers can be larger with greater substance and longevity and sometimes color can be more intense. Colchicine began to be used in the 1950s and there are now at least 5 different agents used to increase the ploidy level of germinating plants (either from seed or meristem tissue). These agents are not easy to use and they can kill the plants or fail to induce polyploidy. Polyploidy was induced in only about 70% of two carefully controlled colchicine experiments with Cattleya and the rate is likely lower in routine use. When we buy a plant or flask from a chemical conversion attempt, we have to be prepared for the possibility that the plant will not have an increase in ploidy.

The first Phrag Fritz Schomburg (FS) plants were probably mostly 2N and the first AOS awards were in 2008/2009. The first awarded flowers were about 10-11 cm wide, frequently not round or closed, and often with paler color. The following page from Orchid Roots shows many likely 2N FS.

Phragmipedium Fritz Schomburg

Successive crops of FS then appeared every few years and the flowers improved. Eventually, a few 4N besseae became available to make 3N FS and these plants were improved in shape and size (up to 11-12 cm with an occasional 13). David (monocotman) showed his 3N FS from Orchids Limited in the following Slippertalk post and it is about as good as a 3N FS can be.

As good as it gets. The best triploid Fritz.

A few others have posted similarly nice 3N FS pictures. My 3N FS from an Orchids Limited cross (kovachii ‘Tesoro Morado’ x besseae ‘Rob’s Choice’) is currently in bloom for the sixth time and it has good width (11.5-12 cm) and configuration, but I don’t think it is as quite as flat or dark as David’s.

FS_3N.jpeg

I suspect that the first awarded 4N FS might have been awarded in 2019 to Woodstream Orchids for ‘Eddy Lick Run’. It received an FCC (93 points) and had a horizontal width of 14.4 cm and a petal width of 5.5 cm. The shape was pretty round, closed and symmetrical. Here is a link to the OrchidsPro award page.

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PeteM posted a picture of his plant from Woodstream that I think might have been related to ‘Eddy Lick Run’ because it had a similar appearance.

Phrag. Fritz Schomburg

Orchids Limited now has 2 FS that they think are 4N, both coming from crosses in which chemical conversion had been used with parents. They posted the first plant to bloom on Facebook in February 2021 and I copied it to the following Slippertalk post.

Fritz Schomburg triploid and tetraploid

This same FS is now blooming a year later, and here is a picture of Jerry Fischer holding it in his hand.

FS_4N.jpeg

The width is 14 cm and the petal width is 5 cm. The substance is heavy and the flower is round and closed. The color looks pretty red to me. I am sure there will be other 4N FS made and the good ones will be similarly large, round, and dark. They will be the pinnacle (and the end) of breeding for FS.

However, Jerry mentioned many plans to use these tetraploid FS in breeding with newer Phrag species or in recreating older hybrids, expecting that various aspects of the flowers can be improved but this will be many years in the making. In a statement that at least some of us can relate to he said, “I hope I get to live long enough to see it.” Amen to that.
 
Many of Bill's FS came from the Orchid Zone cross of besseae 'Mega' x kovachii 'Leo Andre'. I disagree that the current 4n Fritzes are either the pinnacle or the end. They can still be line bred; they can still be outcrossed; they can still be grown with further improved culture. 15-16cm flowers should be possible in the future. Heck, it might even be possible to make 6n plants, though that might not be a good thing.
 
Nice analysis Terry.
I agree with tnyr5. Sib crossing between 4n clones should be capable of producing some really great things. Just need to produce enough seedlings. It should be possible to produce plants that have either more red or purple blooms like the parents whilst keeping the great shape.
This is the main reason I bought the flask of sib crossed ‘Lovely Lynne’ seedlings from Mike Tibbs. I posted about it recently. The cross is Fritz Schomburg x Perufloras cirila alca ( dalessandroi x kovachii).
Both parents are thought to be tetraploid. Certainly the photos shown of the flowers suggest that they are.
In effect the cross is very close to being a sib cross of two tetraploid Fritz Schomburg clones. I have 25 chances of growing something really interesting.
 
I think that OL plants also had a relationship to OZ but don’t know the specific parents. I am guessing that you can’t get much more than about 14 cm without the flowers having migrated more to kovachii. I don’t think 4N besseae have been larger than 10-11 cm. If we are shooting for flat, non reflexing, round/closed flowers with darker colors approaching red, we can’t lose the besseae influence.
 
Nice analysis Terry.
I agree with tnyr5. Sib crossing between 4n clones should be capable of producing some really great things. Just need to produce enough seedlings. It should be possible to produce plants that have either more red or purple blooms like the parents whilst keeping the great shape.
This is the main reason I bought the flask of sib crossed ‘Lovely Lynne’ seedlings from Mike Tibbs. I posted about it recently. The cross is Fritz Schomburg x Perufloras cirila alca ( dalessandroi x kovachii).
Both parents are thought to be tetraploid. Certainly the photos shown of the flowers suggest that they are.
In effect the cross is very close to being a sib cross of two tetraploid Fritz Schomburg clones. I have 25 chances of growing something really interesting.
David, don’t you think that the roughly 25% dalessandroi that will be in there will always modestly decrease the size and keep the color more toward orange than a FS? I agree that you will get some very nice flowers from your cross and maybe some might branch and hold a few more flowers. My Yoko W. Fischer (50% besseae ‘Rob’s Choice’, 25% kovachii, and 25% dalessandroi) is very nice, but definitely more orange and a little smaller.
 
Or what about a 4N FS with a 4N PK?
I think you are talking about a back cross of (FS x kovachii)? This is Phrag Apollo, which Orchids Limited registered in 2014. I don’t know that we have a confirmed 4N kovachii out there. Orchids Limited suspected that their ‘Tesoro Morado’ might be 4N but I don’t think they have confirmed that. Maybe someone else has produced and confirmed one as 4N. I think Apollo has so far been more purple and its configuration has not been as nice as FS. The other backcross (FS x besseae) could be done 4N and Orchids Limited registered it as ‘Robert-Jan Quene’. Their first one was a 3N. It was very nice but drifted to besseae in terms of size. I have one of these from Tom Kalina and it has been a slow grower.
 
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I think that OL plants also had a relationship to OZ but don’t know the specific parents. I am guessing that you can’t get much more than about 14 cm without the flowers having migrated more to kovachii. I don’t think 4N besseae have been larger than 10-11 cm. If we are shooting for flat, non reflexing, round/closed flowers with darker colors approaching red, we can’t lose the besseae influence.
I'm talking about two lifetimes' worth of back crossing and sib crossing until you uncouple the size genetics from the color/reflexing genetics. It should be very possible, though none of us will live to see it. Just look at modern complexes compared to the species that made them. Look at the latest daylilies, watermelons, etc etc. There's SO much that can be done that is not done with orchids just because of the time between generations. A solid orange flower as big as kovachii with no reflexing should be totally possible.
 
Thanks for this; a nice FS roundup! I have the ‘Rob’s Choice’ x ‘Tesoro Morado’ and I’m looking forward to see how it progresses. It has not been the most vigorous plant (arrived in sheath in November) but I’m getting some good root growth now that it’s out of bloom and the grodan has had some perlite added.🤞 Probably not the best phrag to restart with…
 
I find it interesting that a polyploid plant is judged as a species instead of a different category.
 
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Like having weight classes for certain sports to make them more fair. I understand.

The horse has been out of the barn for over a 100 years, as many of the best species imported in early decades were already natural polyploids. Since testing for polyploidy is still not routine it is an impractical standard for identifying and judging an orchid.

Thus, orchid judging is more like basketball - if you are a shorter than average human you will usually not do well in the game.

If your genes are against you, find a different sport.
 
so i have a particularily nice FS that was awarded earler this year, and i kind of like it a lot... I tried using its pollen on a number of different plants (for two reasons) 1 to see if it was viable pollen, 2 to work on some new crosses...
not one pollination took... i think i put it on about 4 or 5 plants. Can't say that is enough of a study to figure out if it's pollen is good, but does anyone have ideas on other ways to confirm or deny this... maybe a plant that is pretty good breeder to use here to help my decision...
In my mind, reading all this is it fair to say that with all the chemically treated breeding that we are breeding ourselves into a corner in aid of developing super plants for the moment?
 
Do you know the actual parents used to make your Fritz and where you bought it?
It may give a clue as to whether your plant is polyploid. If it is and it’s a triploid, then the chances of it breeding are very low.
 
i bought this nbs plant from a friend that bought a compot from a vendor (?) at the paph forum , and the originator was OZ (“Mega” X kovachii “Leonardo Andre” FCC/AOS)
my buddy is reliable, so not too worried about the provinence other than him not remembering who he bought the compot from....
hope this helps

it has been told to me that part of the problem with these different breeding projects with using tetraploid plants- well the breeders sort of bred themselves into a corner, in order to make nice crosses, they didn't worry about the parents.... I have also been told that the Eric Young Foundation plants are the way to go if i can obtain possible breeding plants.... ???
 
It’s possible that one of the parents is tetraploid but I don’t know for sure. That would make your plant triploid, so unlikely to breed. However it would mean that it’s quite likely to have stunning blooms. I have a triploid Fritz from the Fischers and it’s really good. Polyploid forms of this cross are generally way better in flower quality than diploids.
Finding confirmed tetraploid breeding plants from the EYOF is very difficult. Counting the chromosomes is tedious and costly And very very few plants have been identified like this. It tends to be via breeding. Plants are chosen that have much bigger blooms, stronger flower stems, wider leaves. They’re very rare. The Fischers have identified only one amongst all their Fritz seedlings. Terry posted a thread about it. Breeding with them and looking at the progeny is one way of tentatively identifying a tetraploid.
Tetraploids can be induced using a chemical called colchicine but it’s very hit and miss. It’s usually done on germinating seedlings and you just need a pulse of it for a few hours. After that it becomes fatal. Any seedlings produced will have a mix of diploid and tetraploids amongst them. Hopefully you can separate them out visually after they’ve matured.
See my thread about the tetraploid Lovely Lynne seedlings to see where this type of breeding is now going. Lovely Lynne is Fritz Schomburg x peruflora’s cirila alca. PCA is besseae var dalessandroi x kovachii, so it’s very closely related to the other parent.
 
It’s possible that one of the parents is tetraploid but I don’t know for sure. That would make your plant triploid, so unlikely to breed. However it would mean that it’s quite likely to have stunning blooms. I have a triploid Fritz from the Fischers and it’s really good. Polyploid forms of this cross are generally way better in flower quality than diploids.
Finding confirmed tetraploid breeding plants from the EYOF is very difficult. Counting the chromosomes is tedious and costly And very very few plants have been identified like this. It tends to be via breeding. Plants are chosen that have much bigger blooms, stronger flower stems, wider leaves. They’re very rare. The Fischers have identified only one amongst all their Fritz seedlings. Terry posted a thread about it. Breeding with them and looking at the progeny is one way of tentatively identifying a tetraploid.
Tetraploids can be induced using a chemical called colchicine but it’s very hit and miss. It’s usually done on germinating seedlings and you just need a pulse of it for a few hours. After that it becomes fatal. Any seedlings produced will have a mix of diploid and tetraploids amongst them. Hopefully you can separate them out visually after they’ve matured.
See my thread about the tetraploid Lovely Lynne seedlings to see where this type of breeding is now going. Lovely Lynne is Fritz Schomburg x peruflora’s cirila alca. PCA is besseae var dalessandroi x kovachii, so it’s very closely related to the other parent.
Well said, David.
 
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