The Merry Sisters of Spring
Cattleya quadricolorfirst appeared in Europe in 1848 when an English orchid grower named Rucker received a single plant from a friend traveling in Colombia. When the plant flowered in 1849, Rucker sent the flowers to the botanist John Lindley, asking him what it was. The only large-flowered Cattleyaspecies known at the time were Cattleya. labiata and Cattleya mossiae, and Lindley thought the flowers Rucker sent were different enough from these two species to mention the plant in an article he wrote for Paxton’s Flower Garden.
The large-flowered Cattleya species have suffered from a bad case of botanical heartburn for more than 150 years — and some of the mistakes of the past never seem to be corrected. For Laelia purpurata, which is really a Cattleya, things even seem to be going from bad to worse, as I see recent efforts to reclassify this wonderful large and showy species as a member of the genus Sophronitis, which is composed of miniatures (Lindleyana, 15:118).