(Start at The Genus Encyclia–Part 1)
To close out this series on Encyclia orchids, we should probably consider hybrids. Broadly speaking, Encylia species are genetically compatible with each other and with other members of the subtribe Laeliinae. Natural hybrids among Encyclia species do occur, particularly in the Caribbean, but as far as I am aware, intergeneric hybrids are purely a phenomenon of cultivation. When crossed together, Encyclia species produce hybrids that are, as one might expect, not dissimilar to the original species. The hybridization merely extends the color variation of the genus somewhat and, perhaps, introduces some hybrid vigor. When crossed to other genera in the Laeliinae, Encyclia contributes genes for compact growth and long inflorescences with multiple, relatively small flowers. Other genera such as Cattleya or Guarianthe extend the color palette and shorten the inflorescence. The intergeneric hybrids are often excellent plants for growing on sunny windowsills.
Encyclia Gail Nakagaki
Encyclia Gail Nakagaki (see also photo 4 here) is an excellent example of a primary hybrid between two species. The form and color of the flower is intermediate between its parents, E. alata and E. cordigera, while the fragrance is strongly influenced by E. cordigera.
Encyclia (chiapasensis x bracteata)
This interesting miniature hybrid was bred by North Carolina orchid grower John Martin, and he very generously gave me a seedling about ten years ago. E. bracteata is a miniature species, while E. chiapasensis is noted for its successive blooming pattern. The hybrid is a dwarf, suited to growing on a windowsill or under lights, which has inherited the successive blooming habit from its larger parent. Instead of producing all of its flowers at one time, each inflorescence produces a few flowers at a time over a long period. A mature plant can be in flower for much of the year, a feature which is obviously appealing to windowsill orchid growers. I am surprised that E. chiapasensis has not been used more by commercial orchid breeders.
This hybrid of Encyclia incumbens crossed with Cattleya (formerly Laelia) cinnabarina is a good example of what happens when the non-Encyclia parent is one of the brightly colored, small-flowered Cattleya species in subgenus parviflorae. The plant resembles an Encyclia with elongated pseudobulbs, but the burnt-orange color is not in the natural palette of Encyclia. Because the other parent is one of the lithophytic species formerly called rupiculous laelias, this hybrid wants bright light and excellent drainage.
Enanthleya Middleburg ‘MAJ’ AM/AOS
Enanthlaya is an artificial genus generated by hybridizing Encyclia, Cattleya, and Guarianthe plants. Enanthleya Middleburg is (Cattleya guttata x Guarianthe bowringiana) x Encyclia phoenicea, and this awarded plant was good enough quality to mericlone and mass market. The beautiful purple color and heavy waxy texture come from both sides of the cross, but the chocolate fragrance is all E. phoenicea.
Enanthleya Joseph Romans x Encyclia cordigera
This cross was less successful than the previous. While E. phonicea produced nicely proportioned flowers in Eny. Middleburg, the larger lip of E. cordigera has produced ungainly flowers which are crowded together on the short inflorescence influenced by the Enanthleya parent. Perhaps that’s why the cross has not been registered.
Enanthleya Bob Gasko
Not every Enanthleya is purple. The bright orange color of Eny. Bob Gasko comes from rupiculous laelias and Guarianthe aurantiaca. The cross is (Encyclia incumbens x Guarianthe aurantiaca) x (Cattleya neokautskyi x Cattleya harpophylla), so the genetic influence of Encyclia is somewhat attenuated compared to Eny. Middleburg or Eny. Joseph Romans x E. cordigera. Nevertheless, Encyclia is still clearly visible in the compact growth habit and long, beautiful inflorescence. Unfortunately, this hybrid does not have any fragrance that I can detect.
So, that wraps up my brief survey of Encyclia orchids and their cultivation. Hopefully it has given you some idea of why Encyclia is my favorite orchid genus and, perhaps, whetted your appetite for growing one (or a few, or a greenhouse full).