Going Green with Hybrids

Gerrit Takasaki, the owner of Hawaii Hybrids in Hilo, will be the guest speaker at the Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club monthly meeting on May 14 in Honalo.

With tens of thousands of species, orchids are the most prolific family of plants on Earth, and yet we humans have still found plenty of room for improvement. Maybe it’s because orchids are so easy to cross, or maybe it’s because breeding is at once both highly creative and demanding (like any fine art), but orchid breeders have introduced literally hundreds of thousands of named hybrids. In fact, the vast majority of plants for sale in the trade today are hybrids that some breeder dreamed up and made a reality.

Producing hybrid flowers from orchids is both relatively easy and relatively difficult. The plants themselves readily cross with other orchid species and genera (in many cases), making it especially easy to come up with wonderful new combinations. Yet as a rule, producing orchids from seed is a difficult and specialized task, whether you’re hybridizing or not. Orchid seeds are tiny, almost microscopic, and must be raised in sterile flasks on a sterile substrate. An orchid seed-raising operation looks far more like a pharmaceutical lab, with its rows of sealed flasks filled with tiny seedlings, than a typical greenhouse.

But the results of these breeding operations can be astonishing for the orchid lover, even those among us who have no interest in hybridizing plants ourselves.

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