programme in the Singapore Botanic Gardens was initiated
more than 70 years ago by Professor R. E. Holttum. His
first hybrid, Spathoglottis Primrose (Spathoglottis aurea x Spathoglottis plicata), flowered
in 1931. In collaboration with orchid lovers like John
Laycock, he produced hybrids such as Aranthera James Storie
(Arachnis hookeriana x Renanthera storiei)
and Arachnis Maggie Oei (Arachnis hookeriana
x Arachnis flos-aeris), both of which became important
cut-flowers for many years. Then, Oncidium Goldiana
(Oncidium sphacelatum x Oncidium flexuosum) flowered
in 1939. It was also known as the 'Golden Shower'
or the 'Dancing Lady' orchid. This hybrid was a great
success and its popularity is still extant. One can find
it in almost every flower shop throughout the world.
To date, the Gardens has registered more than 400 hybrids. Our
breeding programme focuses on two major groups, dendrobiums and vandaceous
Dendrobium is one of the largest genera in
the Orchidaceae, comprising more than 1,000 species. Species of
Dendrobium are found throughout Southeast Asia, Southern
China, Japan, Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, Papua
New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. This genus is one of the most
popular genera in Singapore and in neighboring countries because it
produces pretty flowers which are diverse in colour and form. The
plants are free-flowering and easy to grow.
Vandaceous species commonly used for breeding are
from Tropical Asia. These showy species are used to
produce hybrids for landscaping, the cut-flower trade and as pot plants. The
more popular genera include Aerides, Arachnis, Ascocentrum,
Doritis, Paraphalaenopsis, Phalaenopsis, Renanthera,
Rhynchostylis, Trichoglottis, Vanda and Vandopsis.
One of our breeding objectives for strap-leaf vandas is
its fragrance and most recent hybrids are sweetly scented.
Terete leaf vandas are very free-flowering in the tropical sun.
An example is the national flower of Singapore,
Vanda Miss Joaquim.
Some of the world's most beautiful pot plants are produced when
vandas are crossed with ascocentrums. These are the free-flowering and
Hybrids of Renanthera are floriferous and
their colours are vivid. An example is Renanthera Singapore Botanic
Gardens. Renantanda is produced when renantheras are crossed with Vanda.
These hybrids usually have big and showy flowers. An example is Renanthera
Kagawara is a hybrid genus, which includes Ascocentrum,
Renanthera and Vanda. The brilliant red from Renanthera
is dominant in it.
Less attractive, but extremely exotic are the scorpion orchids
of Singapore and Malaya. The white scorpion, Arachnis hookeriana can
no longer be found in the wild in Singapore, but lives on in its numerous
progeny. Arachnis hookeriana produces very long lasting flowers with
thick texture. It has been used extensively for breeding hybrids for the
cut-flower trade such as arandas, arantheras and mokaras. Two of our new
mokaras are Mokara Singa Gold and Mokara Lion's Gold.
Paraphalaenopsis is a rare and small genus endemic to
Borneo. It is a member of the tribe Vandeae. The genus comprises of 4 species: Paraphalaenopsis
denevei, P. laycockii, P. serpentilingua and P. labukensis
Recently, we started to breed polyploid hybrids. Most orchids
have two basic sets (diploid, 2x) of chromosomes. Plants that contain more than
the basic two sets of chromosomes are considered to be polyploids. The most
common form of polyploidy is the doubling of chromosome number from diploid
(2x) to tetraploid (4x). Tetraploid plants are usually more fertile (especially
for intergeneric hybrids). As a rule, they are also horticulturally more
desirable than their diploid counterparts. Flowers of tetraploids tend to have
better texture, are bigger and have more intense colouration. So far, several
tetraploids have flowered and the results are promising.
Finally, we have produced hybrids with exciting new colours as such orange and
red antelope dendrobiums. A dark chocolate-coloured Ascocenda flowered recently
(it even smells like chocolate!). We also use parents species that were
seldom used before such as Dendrobium singkawangense, Trichoglottis
loheriana, Vandopsis waroqueana, and hybrids of Bulbophyllum,
Coelogyne and Pecteilis. Some of these hybrids have flowered.
They are interesting and possess unique characteristics that are different from
the more common hybrids. We believe that these new hybrids will lead us to new
and exciting breeding directions.