2011 Archived Messages

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January 15—21

From: john Stanley
To: Orchid Talk List
Subject: Re: [OrchidTalk] FW: Paphiopedilim.
Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2011 18:50

Hi Mats,
I have chatted with botanical friends and an orchidaceous colleague who isn t in our forum. I ve also been in correspondence with Geoff but I m not sure if that was outside the forum.

As a result, I have come to the conclusion that we are possibly being misled by the interpretation of the word alba and its derivatives. If you check a Latin dictionary, I think you ll find that alba means white or a white garment). The term albino has a rather special scientific meaning which might bot be intended in the context of your plants/seeds..

I suspect that the alba suffix or specific name or hybrid registered name refers simply to the whiteness of the flower and not to genetic albinism. When you think about it, no sensible taxonomist would use alba in the sense of albinism when naming a species or registering a hybrid. The word might, however, be used simply to describe a white flower. I have also discovered, via Geoff, that those in the know suggest that alba can also mean a deficiency in the colour red! I won t quote the source in case either Geoff or I haven t got it 100% correct!

So, it is probable that your seeds are not from genetically albino plants but simply from a hybrid that is (usually?) white. The only outstanding problem that has cropped up in our conversations is; why grow them from seed? Fertile hybrids would/might be expected to yield plants that are unusually varied if they yield plants at all!

Sadly, our most useful OT member, Geoff, has to have an involuntary holiday in hospital for a few days followed by recovery. I am sure that when he s fit, he ll join the argument. There is, of course, still the possibility that someone out there can come in with a definitive answer/opinion.

As for me, thinking aloud, so to speak, has exercised my brain and I think we have got to the answer in the end. I think it is always worth asking questions. In my professional teaching days I always told students to ask, even if they imagined their question might be a silly one! I suppose for the teacher s part, it is important always to find a useful aspect to a question so that it becomes positive.

I am not suggesting that your query was a silly one! On the contrary it has made quite a few of us exercise our brains .

Thanks for raising the topic.

Mats Linde wrote Re: [OrchidTalk] FW: Paphiopedilim.

I guess I used the word "defect" a bit sloppy, but what I meant is a deviation from "the normal" gene sequence in a species.

What John wrote confirms what I suspected, a plant sold as a seed albino plant could very well be a normal coloured plant even if both the parents are albinos.

I might be that I'm totally wrong, I found the quote below on the net.

At http://www.bio.net/bionet/mm/mol-evol/1995-November/003768.html mary kuhner genetics.washington.edu wrote"A recessive gene is very frequently one that produces no gene product,or a gene product that does not do anything: the gene is broken.Whether a broken gene appears recessive or not depends on whether aworking copy is able to provide enough of the gene product. In manycases it can. "

"A good example to think about is albinism. Albinism is recessivebecause if any gene making melanin is working, there will be melanin andthe person will be at least somewhat brown. The "albino gene" is not agene that makes you an albino, it is a gene that does nothing, and ifthat's all you have you will lack melanin and be an albino."I guess it's not melanin in orchids, but if the same reasoning about broken genes is true for orchids, it makes sense that albinoism is uncommon amoung orchids. In the natural habit most albinos will mate with a normal plant with a functioning gene and all seedplants will look normal. But if yoy have two albinos and let them mate, the result will always be an albino plant with two broken genes, or? Normally, I suppose, albinoism is the result of a failed DNA copying in a few of the seed plants from the mating between two "normal" plants.Am I totally wrong on this? How is it in orchids with partly white flowers, e.g. Phalaenopsis, do they have a gene that says that they should be partly white or is it just a result of genes that didn't manage to colour all of the flower? If they have a gene that says that part of the flower should be white, it could also be that gene running berserk and make all of the flower white in an albino.I guess I'm more confused than ever, what John wrote about hybrids are definitily true.And what is "Paphiopedilum emersonii var.semi-albino* in that case? A plant with a partly broken gene?
Thanks John, anyone with more input on the subject.?


From: Geoff Hands
To: Orchid Talk List
Subject: More about name changes..
Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2011 19:20

Whilst we have been in our greenhouses, whingeing on about name changes, and
having to turn Odonts into Oncids, etc, out in the big wide world of
non-orchids, even greater revolutions have been taking place it seems.

Did you know ( how could you have dreamt ?) that Sycamore and Horse Chestnut
were closely related ? Now, it seems, Acer and Hippocastanacaea don't exist
any more ; the family now concerned is Sapindaceae − of course you knew that
Lychees and Rambutan ( another tropical fruit which you may not have met
unless you have been to the Far East ) are typical examples of that genus.

Actually I still find that a bit hard to swallow, whatever the DNA says − I
suspect it is a hiccup , someone turned over two pages instead of one.
Rambutan and Lychee and Horse Chestnut I will believe, all have knobbly if
not prickly large near-spherical "seeds" i.e. fruits ( not that I would like
to eat a conker). But the Sycamore has that familiar winged and merely
fibrous coated pea-sized seed .

Personally I only think of Sycamores and also the more ornamental Acers,
such as A.palmatum, in the genus , but it is so large and important that one
of the divisions of forest in Thailand is called Dipterous − meaning trees
which have two-winged fruits (Acer being the one which comes to my mind).

Of course, if I utter it out loud , (that I don't believe it ) I will be
told that this is the whole point − the new botany is based on DNA
similarity, not similarity of physical shape ( morphology) .

Foxgloves and Mallows, Scilla and Chionodoxa − all have changed their names
- and I'm only mentioning the ones I happen to have read out about today ,
in an interesting piece on the back page of the Saturday ( today's ) issue
of The Telegraph newspaper, gardening section.

Clearly there is no end to the name changes we have discussed sporadically
in recent years ; we must stop feeling hard-done by as orchidists − all
serious plant cultivators are in the same boat. .

Throw away all your gardening books . They are all out of date. I think it's
a conspiracy by the publishers, to sell new editions. Someone must be busy
writing them ! Who ? Why the DNA merchants of course ; it's all a plot.



From: Roger Grier
To: Orchid Talk List
Subject: Name changes.
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2011 10:05

Mornin' all,

I have just read what Geoff has said about the name changes, especially the TREES. I know it is an off orchid subject, but I am in complete agreement with what he says.

I just could not believe what these 'Twits' are up to.

'Trees' are one of my side-hobbies, and having so many different trees within a few hundred yards of my home makes it all the more fascinating.

Sycamore and Horse chestnut being lumped together, not in my book matey.

The flower spikes of a Horse chestnut stand upright, whereas the flowers of the Sycamore hang suspended.................maybe some of the boffins should 'hang suspended'.



From: Dennis Read
To: Orchid Talk List
Subject: Alba
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2011 10:25

Many years ago Dr. Henry Oakeley and John Blowers explained to me that 'alba' meant lacking the red pigment in the flower. That means you can have a yellow 'alba' as well as white or green ones but all as species..
About five years ago I bought Coel. speciosa 'albicans' a cream and green form of C. speciosa and was told that 'albicans' was now the correct scientific name and up till now I had accepted that. I now see that 'albicans' medically means 'white bodied',
I will stick with 'alba'
Apologies for any spelling errors but just go to the adjoining letter on the key board.


From: Dennis Read
To: Orchid Talk List
Subject: Re: [OrchidTalk] More about name changes..
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2011 10:30

Geoff. don't bother with new names. Very soon the 'taxonomists' will be stuffing us with romantic DNA numbers to describe all plants and animals. Rember Orwells 1984


From: Paul Johnson
To: Orchid Talk List
Subject: Re: [OrchidTalk] Alba
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2011 20:05


Dennis and John,

I am unaware of any botanical definition of albidus to include or
exclude particular colors. Defining the term to exclude red pigment
is surely eclectic, if not elitist, and restricted to certain
horticultural areas. The attached article by Wilson (1980) may be of

The used of "albicans" [ `becoming white'] as a name in a combination
for Coelogyne speciosa is defunct. The "var. albicans" is a synonym
of the typical C. speciosa. It dates from Veitch (1890), who named an
only slightly larger and more pallid variation of the typical form,
evidently for his commercial purposes. This name, even as a
horticultural variety, is so irrelevant and meaningless that
Gravendeel (1999) and other taxonomist do not even bother to discuss
its nomenclatural value in designation any variation of the species.
The same situation applies for the former "var. alba", another
horticultural attribution for a variant of C. speciosa first in the
Gardener's Chronicle (1905).



From: john Stanley
To: Orchid Talk List
Subject: Re: [OrchidTalk] Alba
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2011 00:15

Hi Paul,
Thanks for breathing a little fresh air into this alba business. I still think the answer to the original question is to do with the different uses of the words derived from the Latin root, alba . On the one hand, there are various words (like the ones referred to in the pdf file you attached) that are intended to be descriptive of the colour or (part) of a plant and, on the other which identifies the genetic condition of albinism. I assumed, at first, that we were talking about albinism and couldn t get my head round the idea of such parents producing commercially viable seeds! I guess we talked ourselves into an essentially correct answer but you identify another issue!

First though; this whole issue of colour. In my world, black is a total absence of colour and white consists of a combination of all the visible colours. So, strictly, neither black (rare in plants!) nor white are colours . Might as well throw in the anomaly of calling black and white (or grey-scale) film monochrome yet another misnomer!

Having got that out of the way, it seems we aren t discussing the condition of albinism at all but the description of flowers. It is in this context that alba (or its grammatically correct spelling) as discussed in your pdf attachment. It is my understanding, derived second hand from from a number of well-known and respected authors, that alba-named plants aren t always white but are associated to varying degrees, with colour. I m certainly not speaking with authority but, undoubtedly, this is an assertion that is around!

Please correct me if I m wrong, but I believe the majority of (modern) uses of alba are for infra-specific names which (I think) only have validity as commercial varieties or as working distinctions so that variants can be communicated without any formal implications. Certainly, there are transitional forms which are referred to as var alba but which show a degree of colour. This , of course, doesn t disagree with your comments of formal nomenclature but infra specific terms certainly have been used in scientific literature in the past.

There is (I think) another issue; when orchids (or most other plants) are grown under conditions that are different from the wild, characteristics such as colour can be changed without selection or crossing. (How about Hydrangea?). Of course, this doesn t cause a problem if the specific name is not anchored to a changeable characteristic.

Another problem can relate to the work of everyone s favourite scientist, the taxonomist! Certainly in my (fossil) world, there have been organisms named after characteristics chosen from the holotype or a restricted number of paratypes. As research goes on, it becomes apparent that what seemed an obvious sensible name at the outset survives only because of the taxonomic legal history!

Another point worth considering is that many distinctions between species are transitional (as one might expect with closely related ones) and I can think of several examples of organism where the originally supposed distinction turns out to be a couple of points in an otherwise complete continuum.

All of these aspects cause confusion to the non-specialist or the layman and me and it comes as no surprise that taxonomists get the flack. On the other hand, imagine a world of orchids if names had had no controlling rules or if systematics had stopped at the genus Orchis! Taxonomy really would then really have been nothing but a load of you know what !



From: Geoff Hands
To: Orchid Talk List
Subject: a couple of plants for sale.
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2011 20:50

I have two biggish plants of Coelogyne Unchained melody to divide up and
dispose of ( keeping a third for myself). See pic . They will be good
clumps, two or more leads.

Also a lot of the Dendrobium shown in the basket pic − Sachi x Wave King -
these will be flowering size − in fact in flower now, minimum of two
flowering canes.

Anyone interested, please mail me privately . Don't expect a reply
immediately if your mail arrives after Thursday for reasons but you will
get one presently.



To: Orchid Talk List
Subject: Re: [OrchidTalk] Alba
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2011 22:10

Hi everybody!

I really enjoyed this discussion, it has been very
educating. Unfortunately I've been quite busy with my family and my job
lately, that's the reason for my absence and I also recieved a shipment
from Orchids & more last wednesday so I've been extra busy.

back to the discussion. John, it's not my seeds, I copied :

Paphiopedilum armeniacum var albino


2 years old
seedling,leaf span 4cm

from the list Peter Fowler sent to our mailing

The article was very interresting, unfortunately it's 30 years
old and taxonomy is developing quite fast (last year I realised that I
had to do a serious bit of studying to catch up when I tried to read B
Gravendeel's thesis about Coelogyne and it was like greek to me). I
think the author of the article is sliding a bit about hybrids and
species, but it's still enlightening

I think we all agree that the
name var albino is a misnomer, it should either be alba/album or just
"white". If it is a species, is it then really good to call it "Hort.?
Of course it could be the result of directed breeding in the species on
some characters, white e.g, but would that bring it to Hort.? I felt the
article mainly discussed hybrids and Hort.

Part of the confusion in
our discussion was the growers use of "albino", that put at least me on
the wrong track, but the result was that it forced me to reconsider my
ideas and that's always productive.

Anyway, I still doubt that the
seller could promise an alba in a seed plant from a species. We haven't
really managed to sort out the question of genes and the inheritance of
characters, but I'm afraid it will be to difficult to do, probably it
would be necessary to study the genes in this plant.

The best would be
if someone who grow Paphipedilum, bought a "var albino" and then
reported the result to the mailing list.

John, you seem to have a past
in Paleontology, could you help us to define what a species is? Just
kidding, but it is very unclear what a species is.

When I was in
school, we were taught that the mating between two animal/plants that
produced a fertile offspring, proved that they belonged to the same
species. Orchids are a very good example that this rule doesn't hold
water, there are numerous hybrid offsprings that are fertile.

spring I studied Taxonomy on distance and according to the teachers, the
taxonomic defintion of a species is that it differs in two unrelated
characters from the next species. It is so bad that this difference in
characters, could very well be on a genetic level and the appearance of
the the two species could be very similar. I don't know if you have read
Barbara Gravendeels PhD Thesis about Coelogyne? She studied the
relationship in the group Fuliginosae, i.e Coelogyne fimbriata, ovalis
etc. and found that all of them except triplicatula were the same
species. The differnce in appearance was only a question about the
growing conditions and geographical distribution. That's very
interresting, I think we will have to trust the taxonomists about what
is related to what. I think it's a bigger problem with the growers that
put the wrong name on a plant than if research show us that a
traditional relationship is wrong.



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