Brassia verrucosa is in the family Orchidaceae. Commonly known as warty brassia, it is native to Central and South America, including Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, and Brazil. This species is an epiphyte that grows on trunks and branches of trees in montane cloud forests. The flowers are borne on inflorescences that can reach over 2 feet in length, producing numerous of large speckled flowers that bloom through the late spring and fall.
Intergeneric hybridization is a process by which two species from separate genera mate to form a hybrid offspring. This occurs naturally in nature, but has been exploited by humans; a notable example includes the cama, a camel alpaca hybrid. However, in most animal intergeneric hybrids, the offspring are sterile and can not mate. This is not the case in most plants, and is best exemplified in the breeding of orchids. There are hundreds of horticultural varieties of orchids that have been created through crossing of species in separate genera. Pictured above is a variety of Degarmoara Winter Wonderland. Degarmoara is not an accepted genus, but is rather a name created in the orchid industry. Degarmoara varieties are the result of crosses between the 3 separate genera Brassia, Miltonia, and Odontoglossum. While traditional biology has taught us that species are defined as being reproductively isolated, intergeneric hybridization contradicts this view, and may mean that the taxonomy of many organisms needs to be reconsidered to reflect this plasticity in reproduction.
Brassias are commonly known as spider orchids, and the flowers on this hybrid do not disappoint. This genus is one of my personal favorites and I’m excited I finally found one after 8+ months of searching NoVA high and low.
This is a mature division, probably 1.5 feet across with just under a dozen large pseudobulbs. Taking into account the flower spike it’s easily over 2 feet tall and just barely fits on my plant shelf. Normally I wouldn’t repot an orchid in bloom but it had completely overgrown its 3in pot and had put out so many roots over the lip of the container that it looked like it was actively trying to escape. I’ve since repotted it in a 6in terra cotta pot, which should give it a bit of room to grow since this genus is fast growing and leggy.
Repotting is a bit risky, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that it recovers and starts putting out some new growths. This hybrid supposedly grows like a weed so I should know if it was a good or bad decision shortly. I try not to get too attached to my plants during the early acclimatization, ‘can die for 1000 reasons’ stages, but I’ll readily confess that I will be utterly, totally crushed if I can’t get this one to grow to it’s potential.
There were three labels attached to the pot. One said Encyclia prismatocarpum, the second Aliceara Pacific Nova ‘Butter Buds,’ and the third Beallara Pluto’s Drummer 'Pacific Pink.’ The last two are intergenerics based partly on Brassia. As a matter of fact, the flower looks similar to Brassia verrucosa. It definitely doesn’t look like a Beallara and while close to Encyclia isn’t one of them. The best fit is Aliceara Pacific Nova 'Butter Buds’ and that is what this is. Yes, intergenerics have funny long names because they are chosen by breeders who tend to show no regard for scientific names.
At this point let me explain what intergenerics are. I didn’t know, either, until recently. A hybrid is created when two different species within the same genus are cross bred, e.g., horse and zebra. Hybrids are also known as interspecifics.
In general, nature doesn’t allow cross breeding between different genera. So we can’t cross humans with chimpanzees (even if we characterize people we don’t like that way). However, cross breeding between genera is possible in orchids between certain genera. Apparently, this is because the separation occurred relatively recent in terms of biological time. These are called intergenerics.
Aliceara is a three-way cross between Brassia, Miltonia, and Oncidium.
This plant has 24-inch floral spikes which on average have 12 blooms each. Each bloom is about 5-6” in diameter. Its sepals and petals are yellow with a slight touch of green and have brown spots. The labellum is yellow overall but white with purple splotches near the column. This bloomed in mid-September.
Orchids showing this Brassia look are commonly known as spider orchids.
A lot of orchids use mimicry to entice pollinators, but Brassias have a particularly bizarre pollination strategy. They appear so spider-like in silhouette that predatory wasps are tricked into attacking them, and in the ensuing struggle, the wasps are coated in pollen. Once they give up attacking one ‘spider’, they move onto the next and deposit it.