the interest in miniature cattleyas that arose some 20
years ago has blossomed into a major commercial sector,
it is by no means a new area of orchid breeding. Let me
take you on a trip into the past and describe - and, in
some cases, show you - some of the fine minicatts that
were the forerunners of todays lovely hybrids. Some
of these have survived to grace collections and shows
today while others have been lost in the dark corners of
We will explore the hybridizing history of four species:
Sophronitis coccinea, Laelia pumila, Cattleya walkeriana
and Cattleya aclandiae. In each case, they were
commonly used as parents between 1860 and 1930 and then
rarely used again until 1960. With the large-flowered
cattleyas and laelias, the pattern of hybridizing was one
of continuous use from the beginning of orchid
hybridizing to the present. There are many reasons for
beginning, there was Sophronitis coccinea, a
true-red flower, but, alas, so small. In a world where
bigger was better, this diminutive plant was bred with
its larger relatives to capture its color while
increasing the size of the flowers. In the process of
doing this, some of the first miniature cattleyas were
created. The first Soph. coccinea hybrid was Sophrocattleya
Batemanniana (x Cattleya intermedia) registered in 1886
by Veitch. This cross was remade much later with the aquinii
form of C. intermedia and has produced flowers
with stripes and splashes of pink on a white-to-pink
background. Of the original cross, one plant exhibited by
Baron Sir Henry J. Schroder in 1887 was given an Award of
Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).
Since that first hybrid in 1886, Soph. coccinea
has been used in more than 265 registered crosses.
Seventy of these crosses were registered between 1886 and
1936, but from 1937 to 1960, only five hybrids were
recorded. However, more than 200 additional Soph.
coccinea hybrids were registered after 1960 including
the important grex Sophrocattleya Beaufort (x Cattleya
luteola South River). Of the 70 Soph.
coccinea hybrids produced prior to 1937, none of these
was given AOS awards until the 1960s.
One of the most notable attempts to capture the color of Soph.
coccinea was the hybrid Sophrocattleya Doris
made by Messrs. W. Bull and Sons in 1904 (x Cattleya
dowiana). Clones of this cross were recognized in
1908 and 1910 by the RHS. According to Frank Fordyce,
B.O. Bracey brought Sc. Doris to the United States
sometime in the 1930s or early 1940s. However, the first
AOS awards to this grex were made in 1960 to the clones
Gold Nugget, HCC/AOS, and Pamela,
AM/AOS. Some have considered these two plants to be
divisions of the same clone. These clones were not plants
from a remake, but were from Bulls original cross
In 1915, R.G. Thwaites and Mrs. Thwaites registered Sophrocattleya
Dorea, a backcross of Cattleya dowiana with Sc.
Doris. Both Sc. Doris and Sc. Dorea are
true minicatts. Curiously, while Sc. Dorea
Lows received its AM/RHS in 1921, it
was not until 1965 that it was recognized by the judges
of the AOS when it received an HCC.
In 1901, Mr. Edward Owen Orpet registered Sophrolaelia
Orpetii (x Laelia pumila). This hybrid bears a
unique place in the history of orchids in America as
being the first orchid cross to be registered from this
continent with Sanders List of Orchid Hybrids and
The Orchid Stud-Book. In spite of its early appearance on
the orchid scene in the United States, no awards were
given by the RHS or the AOS to this cross until 1977.
Since then, at least 18 flower-quality awards have been
In addition to Sl. Orpetii, there were 18 other
Sophrolaelia crosses made before 1935. Some of these are
familiar names such as Sophrolaelia Marriotiana, Sophrolaelia
Gratrixiae, Sophrolaelia Valda and Sophrolaelia
Psyche. Sophrolaelia Gratrixiae (Soph. coccinea
x Laelia tenebrosa) was registered in 1901 and first
awarded by the AOS in 1965. These later awards were from
a remake by Gavino Rotor. Likewise, Sl. Psyche (Soph.
coccinea x Laelia cinnabarina), registered in 1902 by
Charlesworth, was remade by Don Richardson in the late
1950s. However, the first AOS award was not given until
1968. Since then, there have been six AOS awards to this
grex. Veitch and sons registered Sophrolaelia Valda
(Laelia harpophylla x Soph. coccinea) in
In the late 1950s, Don Richardson also remade Sl.
Marriotiana (Laelia flava x Soph. coccinea), first
registered by Marriot in 1896. While none of these was
ever awarded, the flowers were quite striking with
red-to-orange stripes on a bright yellow background.
In 1917, Sir George Holford made a hybrid that would
become the standard against which all other red Cattleya
Alliance crosses would be measured. This was Sophrolaeliocattleya
Falcon (Laeliocattleya Aureole x Soph. coccinea).
Holford eventually garnered an FCC/RHS on two clones,
Alexanderi and Westonbirt, in
1921 and 1922, respectively. These same two clones were
eventually granted FCCs by the AOS:
Alexanderi in 1960
and 'Westonbirt in 1964. Sophrolaeliocattleya
Falcon certainly qualifies for a near-miniature, if not
miniature, cattleya. Until recently, no other hybrids
approached this fabulous color. In the 1960s, the goal of
many hybridizers was to achieve this color in a larger
flower. Unfortunately, Slc. Falcon clones proved to be
In reviewing the judging of Sophronitis hybrids,
1960 was a turning point. Until then, only eight clones
had been awarded by the AOS. Half were hybrids of Sophrolaeliocattleya
and three the progeny of Sophrolaeliocattleya
Anzac. All had 5-inch or larger flowers. The remainder
were in the genus Potinara (Brassavola x
Cattleya x Laelia x Sophronitis), all of which had
flowers 5 inches or larger. This is not surprising,
because from the 1920s through the 1950s, the commercial
cut-flower growers dominated orchid breeding and judging.
Their interest was in large, full flowers and most had
little use for the smaller-flowered species. For example,
Mr. P.J. Mossman, speaking to the New Jersey Florists
Club in 1920, said, "To get an ideal flower, it
would be useless to take the fine form of Cattleya
gigas and hybridize it with the pollen of Cattleya
intermedia. If, however, Cattleya gigas be
crossed with the pollen of Cattleya dowiana or Cattleya
aurea, all of the described results are
obtained." Hence, there was little incentive to
breed or show such hybrids as Sc. Doris, Slc.
Falcon, and other fine minicatts, many of which did,
however, receive awards later.
The first sign of this shift in orchidists interest
was the awarding of Slc. Falcon, Sc. Doris
and Sophrocattleya Boltonii (Cattleya
percivaliana x Soph. coccinea) in 1960. Sophrocattleya
Boltonii was registered in 1922 but no awards were
previously granted to this grex. All of these awarded
plants were from their original grexes.
In 1962, Sophrolaeliocattleya Jewel Box (Slc.
Anzac x Cattleya aurantiaca) was registered and in
1964 the first two clones of this excellent cross were
awarded by the AOS. While Slc. Jewel Box is not a
true minicatt, it is smaller than a standard and probably
fits in the category of compact cattleya. The ease with
which Slc. Jewel Box is cultivated has made it one
of the most commonly grown cattleya hybrids of all time.
Certainly, Slc. Jewel Box paved the way for a
greater acceptance of these smaller hybrids. In addition,
Slc. Jewel Box is an outstanding parent. Several
of the grexes from this parent have yielded awarded
clones. These include such minicatt crosses as Sophrolaeliocattleya
Madge Fordyce (x Sc. Doris), Sophrolaeliocattleya
Mine Gold (x Laelia briegeri) and Sophrolaeliocattleya
Ruth Liebman (x Soph. coccinea).
In spite of the influence of Slc. Jewel Box, the
acceptance of smaller flowers on proportionately smaller
plants was not completely forthcoming. For example, Potinara
Magic Lamp (Lowara Trinket x Brassolaeliocattleya
Fortune), registered by Fred A. Stewart, Inc., was not
well received by the orchid community. However, the cross
disappeared shortly after its introduction and this line
of breeding has since been forgotten.
On the other hand, Lowara Spitfire (Trinket x Sl.
Gratrixiae), registered in 1960, which produces starry,
intense-red to red-orange flowers, has fared better. Some
of the Low. Spitfires are being used to produce
such minicatt hybrids as Lowara Fire Doll and Potinara
Dear John (x Slc. Hazel Boyd). One of Low.
Spitfires significant features that is transmitted
to its progeny is fragrance, a commodity sorely lacking
in many minicatts derived from Soph. coccinea.
This relatively complex hybrid contains no Cattleya
parents in its background.
Another forgotten and, unfortunately, little-known,
minicatt hybrid of the 1960s is Sophrocattleya
Happiness (Cleopatra x Petite Fleur). Howard Hill
registered this cross in 1968. These plants produced
3-inch flowers on 4- to 6-inch-tall plants, with colors
ranging from light pink to deep hot pink. I have not seen
another cross quite like this one for producing such a
range of true pinks, although Sophrocattleya
Delectable (Cattleya Loddiaca x Sophronitis
wittigiana) comes close. Fred A. Stewart, Inc.,
registered the latter in 1977.
Laelia pumila was used as a parent in 51 crosses
between 1856 and 1935. Like Soph. coccinea, L. pumila was
largely forgotten until the 1960s. Since then, an
additional 90 crosses have been registered with L. pumila
as a parent. Sixty-four of these were registered after
1985. In contrast to the experience with S. coccinea,
fewer of the earlier hybrids have been saved or
However, one of the most successful early minicatt
crosses was Laeliocattleya Clive (L. pumila x
C. dowiana), registered by Clive Cookson in 1893.
Between 1894 and 1908, this cross received four FCCs and
three AMs from the RHS. This must have been an
extraordinary cross to achieve so many RHS awards in so
short a period.
Although L. pumila
is not as successful as Soph. coccinea in reducing
the size of the plant, it does minimize the internodal
distance between pseudobulbs, which produces a more
compact growth habit. This trait can carry over into
second- and third-generation crosses, such as Brassolaeliocattleya
Canyon View (x Laeliocattleya Ovation), which
is a standard-size cattleya, in most other respects.
Laelia pumila does enhance color. Its hybrids
often have flowers of deep intense purple to magenta. The
lip is frequently darker, such as in Laeliocattleya
Mini-Purple (x Cattleya walkeriana), Sl.
Orpetii and Sophrolaeliocattleya Pink Doll (x Sophrolaeliocattleya
Tangerine Jewel). Finally, color in some hybrids of L.
pumila appears to be sensitive to seasonal changes.
Darker, more-intense colors are usually seen in summer
Breeding with C. walkeriana again reflects the
pattern seen with L. pumila and Soph. coccinea.
Thirteen hybrids were registered prior to 1923 and 150
after 1960 with registrations peaking in the 1990s. Of
the earlier hybrids, only two grexes received awards. One
of these was a plant of Cattleya Eros (mossiae
x walkeriana, Veitch and Sons, 1895), which received
an AM/RHS in 1895. The other award was an AM/AOS to a
clone of Cattleya Fitz Eugene Dixon (Portia x walkeriana)
given in October 1932. This was the first plant to
receive an AOS award. Neither of these awarded plants was
given a clonal name, as was the custom at this time.
While most of the early hybrids from C. walkeriana
are largely obscure, many fine hybrids are seen in
collections today. Currently, the most popular minicatt
hybrids from C. walkeriana are Lc. Mini
Purple (x L. pumila) and Sophrolaeliocattleya
Mahalo Jack (x Sl. Orpetii). These crosses have
garnered several AOS awards.
Cattleya walkeriana is reasonably successful in
reducing plant size while maintaining large flower size.
Colors vary according to the clones used. There are alba,
semi alba, "blue" and purple or lavender forms
of this fine species. The form of C. walkeriana tends
to be full and flat, with the better varieties having
nearly round petals and large sepals. The one drawback to
using this species is the isthmus lip. This
characteristic is difficult to overcome and is often
evident in third-generation hybrids.
aclandiae has been the parent in 114 recorded
crosses, with 31 registered before 1935 and 73 after
1970. As a parent, this wonderful plant will bring down
plant size without sacrificing flower size, form or
count, which makes it an important parent in minicatt
breeding. Interesting coloration in C. aclandiae -
greenish-olive background with chocolate spotting - will
produce spotting in some of its hybrids, including Cattleya
(x loddigesii) and Laeliocattleya Christopher
Gubler (x Lc. Mem. Albert Heinecke). In other cases, when
bred to a red parent, it seems to enhance the red color,
as seen in Sophrolaeliocattleya Dixie Jewels (x Slc.
Madge Fordyce) and Sophrolaeliocattleya Precious
Stones (x Sl. Psyche).
One well-known cross, Cattleya Brabantiae yielded the
first hybrid orchid to receive an award from the RHS. The
award was an FCC and was received by Veitch of Veitch and
Sons, one of the famous, early British orchid firms.
This cross is a favorite of orchid growers and has been
remade a few times. The clone Spotted
Flamingo received an FCC/AOS when it was exhibited
by Kenneth Meier. Recently, H&R Orchids has
introduced a remake using C. loddigesii
Streeters Choice, FCC/AOS. This latter
grex should produce superior progeny.
Minicatt breeding began more than 130 years ago. The
first hybrid orchid to receive an award was a minicatt (Cattleya
Brabantiae, FCC/RHS, in 1863) and the first orchid
recognized by the AOS was at least a compact cattleya if
not a minicatt (Cattleya Fitz Eugene Dixon,
AM/AOS, in October 1932). While many fine hybrids were
created before 1930, until 1960 little interest was shown
in breeding with these smaller plants. Their prominence
today is a testimony to the orchid communitys
evolving changes in taste. Many of these plants are
genetic treasures that should not be lost. Their genes
are needed to continue the production of new and
ever-more-interesting miniature cattleyas.
coccinea, which has played an important role
in the development of miniature cattleyas,
requires cool growing conditions. Among the
awarded clones of this species is
Dave, HCC/AOS, grown by Mr. and Mrs.
David F.W. Schmidt.
coccinea Neon Light, FCC/AOS,
grown by Fordyce Orchids, received the 1992 AOS
Masatoshi Miyamoto Award, which is given to the
grower of the most outstanding member of the
Cattleya Alliance. It is a tetraploid clone.
Photo - Richard E. Fleig
Jewel Box (Slc. Anzac x C. aurantiaca)
is so easy to grow that it ranks as one of the
most widely cultivated cattleyas of all time.
Irene Gleason, MD, grew this clone, Edward
Below Sophrolaeliocattleya Jewel
Box is an excellent parent of several hybrids,
including Sophrolaeliocattleya Ruth
Liebman Maxine, HCC/AOS (x Slc.
Jewel Box), grown by Orchid Alley, shown here.
Psyche China, AM/AOS, grown by Bob
and Peggy Swanson,
is a cross between Soph. coccinea and Laelia
cinnabarina. This grex was registered in
1902, then remade in the late 1950s by Don
Below Sophrolaelia Gratrixiae (Soph.
coccinea x Laelia tenebrosa) did not receive
its first AOS award until 1965, although it was
registered in 1901. Krull-Smith Orchids grew this
clone, Wayne, AM/AOS, which was
awarded in 1985. Photo - Edwin S. Boyett, Jr.
Mini Purple Full Figure, HCC/AOS (L.
pumila x C. walkeriana), grown by Fred
Photo - Richard Clark
Below Another variation of Lc. Mini
Purple, the clone Luettickes
Whopper, AM/AOS, grown by Luettickes
Orchids & Lab. Photo - Richard Clark
Islander Delights grew this clone of Laelia
pumila var. coerulea Tom
Nelson, AM/AOS. Photo - Richard Clark
Below Laelia pumila KG's Hot
Ticket', HCC/AOS, grown by Greg Allikas and Kathy
Figiel, is a good form of the lavender coloration
typical for this species.
Photo - Greg Allikas
walkeriana is successful in reducing plant
size while maintaining large flower size, two
important factors when developing new minicatts.
This example, var. delicata is a soft pink
Photo - Greg Allikas
Below Cattleya walkeriana crossed
with Sophrolaelia Orpetii yielded Sophrolaeliocattleya
Mahalo Jack Twin Peaks, HCC/AOS,
grown by Islander Delights Orchids. Photo -
aclandiae Joe Elmore, HCC/AOS,
grown by Elmore Orchids.
Cattleya Brabantiae 'Spotted Flamingo' (aclandiae
x loddigesii), grown by Kenneth Meier.