On a vacation in 1955, I had an Odontoglossum flower tattooed on my backside by a famous artist. It seemed like a good idea at the time! I remember the hybrid name included the word, George, and that the plant was bred in England. The petals are mostly red interspersed in white and have frilly edges. If I send a picture, is it possible to trace the exact name and even re-create the orchid today?
Orchid tattoos are here to stay. There are entire websites devoted to the interpretation and symbolism of them. The big draw is their ease of care and that they bloom 365 days a year.
Pure Odontoglossoms are not seen much in the United States because they are generally cool growers – i.e. prefer day temperatures 65 to 75 deg F and night temperatures 50 to 60 deg F. They are popular in England where they are grown to perfection outdoors from June through September.
Over 100 species make up the genus Odontoglossum with thousands of hybrids registered by the mid 1950’s. Similar growth habit allows for intergeneric breeding with Brassia, Cochioda, Miltonia, and Oncidium further broadening the potential pool of mates. Many are red and white with frilly edges. One could pour through pages of ‘Sander’s List of Orchid Hybrids 1946 – 1960’ in search of names that include ‘George’ and the Royal Horticulture Society has an extensive database containing all known hybrids. It is possible to identify the plant in question using a little detective work.
In order to recreate a hybrid, however, a breeder has to obtain the original parents. This process can be difficult for older plants (circa 1955) since these former ‘studs’ would have to still be in circulation over 60 years after their breeding duties. Many generations of new and improved hybrids have been made since then with the older stock usually discarded. If the parents cannot be ‘located’, another option is to find the grandparents which can then be used to remake the parents. This process can regress all the way back to the original species.
With unlimited resources and time, this cherished Odontoglossum flower could be brought to life. Until then, it will have to remain immortalized as artwork on your body.

I saw on television that a wealthy man was traveling the world with a scouting crew trying to discover a new orchid. His purpose was to name it after his grandmother but he wasn’t having much luck. Why is this difficult? Brenda B.
At the turn of the century (1900), there existed a cottage industry of brave plant collectors who would delve deep into the rainforests in search of rare orchids. Many men perished trying to fulfill their dreams or those of their clients. Unchartered jungles are not notoriously friendly to visitors. Aside from tropical diseases like cholera and malaria, unsuspecting humans face constant danger from a plethora of creepies including spiders, snakes, and scorpions.
Today, after hundreds of years of plundering rainforests and other wild places, man has discovered 30,000 new orchid species. There are surely more to be found…mostly in remote areas. Just six years ago, a fellow Virginia grower was traveling through Peru and found perhaps the most impressive Lady Slipper ever known. He promptly named it after himself, Paphiopedilum kovachii and the news story was seen around the globe. But these discoveries are few and far between – akin to the odds of winning the lottery. With 6 billion people in the world, could there be many new orchids?
A better option for the grandmother hoping to have a namesake orchid is to contact a breeder who can custom-make one using her color preferences. It would be a new and exciting hybrid and the world would be in awe.

Monday, December 1, 2008 - 17:45