Tens of thousands of orchid species have been identified throughout the world, and new species are still being discovered every now and then. Orchids are one of the most prolific flowering plants, and human beings found ways to make them even more prolific. Orchid breeders have created more than 100,000 orchid hybrids over the years, and a large percentage of orchids that are being sold today are artificially created hybrids.
That’s a First
The first successful endeavor to hybridize orchids occurred in the 1850s, when the Calanthe Dominyi started to produce flowers. This hybrid was created by John Dominy, the head grower for an English orchid firm called Veitch & Sons. This was soon followed by the flowering of a more flamboyant hybrid called Cattleya Hybrida, and it marked the beginning of a new era of orchid hybridization.
Fewer orchid hybrids were created in the late 19th century because breeders were still unable to determine how mycorrhizal fungi would affect the germination of orchid seeds. Around the beginning of the 20th century, a Frenchman by the name of Noel Bernard claimed that the fungi were essential for orchid seed germination. A German called Hans Burgeff disagreed with him, saying that the germination of seeds could be achieved with the use of laboratory agar and an appropriate fungi strain.
The Discovery of Germination
In 1922, the formula for germinating orchid seeds was finally discovered. American plant physiologist Lewis Knudson found that seeds could be germinated on agar and sugars produced by the fungi, not the fungi themselves, as well as some mineral nutrients. This led to the mass-production of orchid hybrids in the laboratory and the creation of many new hybrids, which continues until today.
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