Orchid Plant Hybridization
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The first artificial hybrids among the orchids were made in the 1850’s at the Veitch nursery in Exeter.
The first seedlings that germinated were of the genus Cattleya, but the first orchid hybrid to flower was a Calanthe in 1856. Following this success, many seed capsules were produced from a wide variety of crosses. Germination of the seeds was not easy, but a few plants of various genera were raised, usually on the compost surrounding the mother plant.
Advances were made when the process of symbiotic germination was developed by Bernard and Burgeff at the turn of the century. Thereafter orchid seeds were germinated on an agar medium infected with a mycorrhizal fungus. The greatest discovery, however, was the demonstration by Knudson in 1922 that the fungus could be dispensed with and that orchid seeds would germinate on an entirely artificial medium which combined suitable basic chemicals with agar and supply of sugar, usually sucrose. This development precipitated an enormous increase in the number and variety of orchid hybrids made, which continues this day.