Melania Trump’s hybrid is a departure from those of her predecessors.
Since 1929, there have been fifteen consecutive U.S. First Ladies who have been honored with orchids. The namesake cattleyas of Bess Truman, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Lady Bird Johnson, for example, are semi-albas (whites with contrasting purple throats) from the corsage era. Mamie Eisenhower, Betty Ford, and Rosalynn Carter have lavender blossoms. Each hybrid is lovely and fitting for the wife of an American President.
The new cattleya honoring Mrs. Trump is alluring and blooms in a variety of exotic hues including peach, apricot, blush, and burgundy. Some of the colors are unexpected due to the complexity of the ancestry. The breeding line can be traced back ten generations to the original jungle species making this the most complex of all the first lady hybrids. In layman’s terms, the lineage combines a classic cut flower white with an unpredictable art-shade stud – all of which makes for a colorful mix of offspring.
Besides the floral pizzazz, we have found the blossoms to be extremely long lasting – often six weeks or more – which start to give the ever-popular and ubiquitous phalaenopsis a challenge. In addition, the foliage is vigorous – often making two new leads a year.
The American Orchid Society judges are expected to have a field day with this new cattleya. The shape of the blossoms is quite round which is one of the criteria used to grant prestigious flower quality awards.
Botanically speaking, the hybrid or grex is called Brassolaeliocattleya (Blc) Melania Trump (C Bold Swan x Chia Lin) and is officially registered with the Royal Horticultural Society in London by Chadwick & Son Orchids of Powhatan, Virginia. Chadwick is also credited with naming the four previous First Lady cattleyas and presenting the flowers to the honored recipients. The plants are then donated to the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. (which acts as a repository) where they are put on public display.
The horticultural world hopes that Mrs. Trump’s schedule allows her to accept the namesake orchid. It’s not always easy for the timing of a flower to coincide with the itinerary of a First Lady. But with the nearly century-old legacy of these fine hybrids in the spotlight, the stars are bound to align.