Rhyncholaeliocattleya Thorntonii

Week 10 Plant 2: May 26, 2020

Rhyncholaeliocattleya Thorntonii

(Rl. digbyana x C. gaskelliana)

Please find second plant for this week - Rlc. Thorntonii (Rl. digbyana x C. gaskelliana).

This primary hybrid originated and registered by T.W.Thornton in 1897.

There are no awards for Rlc. Thorntonii in OrchidPro (strange, this cross has been around for more than 100 years!). It also could be found as Brassocattleya Thorntonii.

Interesting that I couldn’t find much information about this cross on Goggle. I’m wondering if it was awarded by RHS.


Current candidate has 16 flowers and 0 bud on 8 inflorescences. Plant size is 97 x 79 cm, 46cm high (with pot), in 23 cm pot, 52 pseudobulbs.

Flower Measurements:

NS H - 15.0 cm; NS V - 18.0 cm;

Dorsal Sep. W - 1.8 cm; Dorsal Sep. L - 11.0 cm;

Petal W - 5.0 cm; Petals L - 10.5 cm;

Lat/Sepal W - 2.5 cm; Lat/Sepal L - 11.0 cm;

Lip/Pouch W - 8.0 cm; Lip/Pouch L - 8.5 cm.

Judges' Comments

Al Messina

Plant appears to be well grown overall. I believe there could be a suggestion of color break on a petal near the chair over which a towel or cloth is draped.

I would suggest that the reason this cross was never awarded (flower quality) is that few, if any, sepals, petals and lips meet/conform to desirable standards as set forth in the judging manual. As time marches on, standards become more advanced.

I suspect with continued judicious culture (assuming plant is not virused), bloom would be more evenly dispersed (circumferential), filling in flower-bare areas, and a cultural award might be achieved.

Thanks for allowing me to participate.

Carrie Buchman

The digbyana parent is a clear influence on the fringed lip and the gaskelliana parent provide the color. The floriferousness is about what you’d expect for this cross ((awarded digbyana averages 1.2 flower/stem and awarded gaskelliana average 2.6/step). Flower size of the candidate is impressive, but consistent with the digbyana parent. Inflorescences are staked, so flower stems may be weak. Unfortunately, the cross did not retain the best form of its parents; so, I would pass on it for a Quality award.

It is a 52 pseudobulb plant with 8 inflorescences so, I assume that means 8 new growths are flowering at this time. Flowering is on one side of the plant (~180o). There are no cultural awards for the gaskelliana parent. Cultural awards for the digbyana parent are generally bit more floriferousness. The plant certainly looks healthy and vigorous.

Kind Regards,

Carrie Buchman

Cathy Higgins

This plant would almost certainly win a show-table award. It has a lot of flowers. The pale lavender color is pleasing. It has the frimbriated lip from Rl. digbyana. It has however no chance for an AOS award, as the flowers lack the attributes of either parent, specifically size and shape. The stems are weak, contributing to the drooping presentation of the flowers.

It is also poorly groomed and presented, which might not prevent the show table award but would certainly contribute to its assessment by AOS judges. No nomination. No award.

Cathy Higgins

Laura Newton

Mark Werther

Sergey: In my orchid travels, I have seen numerous times digbyana crossed onto labiata variances. They all seem to look much alike with flowers of large size and open form and the digbyana lip. They are interesting as a reference to historical early breeding examples and how the Rhyncolaelia lip influence formed the progression of our Brasso hybrids. Possible CCM with better flowering and a cleaned up plant, but certainly not this plant.

Mark Werther.

Laura Newton

Ok, on this one I’d probably be apt to nominate just for the lip alone! It has the very best digbyana-type lip and in living color, what more could you ask for?? Well, for one you could ask for actual fullness to the sepals, and perhaps some substance to the petals so that didn’t flop back, but I have had several primary digbyana crosses and am always surprised that the sepals and petals are extremely reduced in breeding with digbyana. Look at Rlc. Cordelia (x intermedia), or Digbyano-mossiae, or Mrs. J. Leemann (x dowiana). You get the fimbriated lip and sometimes a large lip, but the sepals and petals seem to suffer.

Sadly with the shape and recurving of the sepals and the petals flopping back, I would not nominate it for quality (I just don’t think I can get enough points out of the lip and the color to override those sepals and petals).

It’s a huge plant and very nicely flowered, so I would look at it for culture. The plant looks clean and save for a few yellowed leaves, I think that I could still manage enough points for a cultural award.

Beth Davis

Bc. Thorntonii

Strictly from a judging standpoint this cross hasn't produced anything "good" and that is reflected in a hybrid being around over 120 years that hasn't not been recognized by the AOS judging program. Not only this cross but there are 23 F1 hybrids that were made with Bc. Thorntonii and only one of those has received any awards (Rlc. Albion = Thorntonii x trianae, registered in 1921, 4 AOS awards 1936 to 1950)

In breeding with C. gaskelliana, we see the petals be a predominate attribute in the hybrids. In Bc. Thorntonii the petal structure is curved and twisted. And perhaps the general idea in breeding with B. digbyana is for the fringed lip to show up. The fringed lip showed up as did a wider natural spread lip. Interesting enough B. digbyana is many times a recluse in its breeding. It takes on the other parent's attributes. There are a few hybrids like B. Aristocrat (digbyana x glauca) and B. Jimminey Cricket (digbyana x nodosa) and Bc. Golf Green 'Hair Pig' (C. Moscombe x digbyana) that you see the fringe show up. Something lovely about this flower is the color. In the cattleya cut flower world we hear "whites and lavenders" but here we truly have a PINK flower. And back in the day who wouldn't have wanted to wear that pinned on their dress. 😉 Outstanding specimen that is putting on a gorgeous show. Too bad we are all social distancing or that could be shown off at a dinner party!

Happy Growing!


Bob Winkley

Hi Sergey -

The underlying comment/question of your presentation is a telling one - how can a hybrid first made in 1897 with the capacity to create such a lovely colored, exceptionally-sized flower have escaped some form of recognition to date? An obvious answer is that the history of orchids hybridization and judging is littered with such plants.

Even back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, orchid judges (and the hybridizers who supported their aesthetics) were looking for Cattleya-type flowers with fuller segments, flat petals and sepals which fell into a plane, and a rounded lip whose margins were even and not twisted. These were the traits that then fueled floriculture and the cut flower trade. The early primary hybrids utilizing Rl. digbyana, while producing interesting flowers, very rarely played into this flower quality paradigm. Our candidate, while having clear even color and great size, has upright, narrow sepals which are quite recurved along the margins. The petals have the potential for being broad, but the strong recurving at the midrib negates that feature. The broad, beautifully fringed lip curves under at its apex just a bit too much. For me, the form precludes scoring for quality.

In terms of culture, we have a very well-grown and flowered plant. It is interesting that there are no cultural awards to the grex, but more interesting is the fact that while Rl. digbyana has a number of cultural awards in our system, C. gaskelliana has none to speak of save for a CC granted in 1933. Perhaps the latter has a penchant for not producing specimen plants? That said, I like to see plants presented for cultural awards with flowers all around the plant (if in a pot) or up and down the plant (if on a mount.) The current presentation, while not around, is very effect on the one side of the plant and the condition of the bloom is pristine. However, the general appearance of the plant with its many older, yellow leaves and some less-than-discreet grooming, detracts from the presentation. I would be hard pressed to score this plant for a cultural award on this blooming.

All the best -

Bob W.

Deb Bodei

Hi Sergey,

Thanks for including!

I am very fond of digbyana and the ethereal elegance of gaskelliana, so seeing this cross was joyful for me. I recall seeing a first bloom of this cross in person two years ago as my first introduction to it, and would have really liked to see this specimen plant in person.

Specific Considerations

- Gaskelliana form is thin but looks like the substance of the digbyana has influenced by the stance of the sepals, especially the dorsal.

-Petals do twist slightly, but it is symmetrical and appealing and is in line with the overall elegant appearance of the bloom.

-Overall color favors gaskelliana and is an attractive lavender (leaning towards pink)

-The lip is stunning from the form and consistent fibrillation to the ombre effect of the yellow throat to white and then lavender to the margin. The veining in the throat adds to the overall appearance. It looks like there is a darker lavender central striation from throat to the apex that, again, adds to the overall appeal. It is interesting how the cross took the best lip traits of each parent with form from digbyana and the color of gaskelliana.

Recommendation for nomination:

With over 20 F1 offspring and overall progeny approaching 100, many had to be attracted to the charming appeal of this cross. I think it deserves to be recognized. Only one cross has been awarded 4 times, ‘Albion’ in the mid-century while cut-flowers were the rage and its substance was likely its drawback. As a plant for a serious hobbyist today, I think it has merit.

I would recommend this plant for a flower award and if considering the traits of the parents can see it reaching AM status. I am hesitant to nominate it for a cultural award as well due to the less than pristine condition and uneven flowering on the entire plant.

Thank you for considering my recommendation,


Elena Skoropad

Wonderful old hybrid.

No award found in the AOS system for over 100 years!

Our candidate is beautifully grown, kudos to the grower. Very nice color, one of the most beautiful digbyana’s type lip. The number of flowers are impressive 16 flowers on 8 inflorescences - 2 flower per inflorescence is good number. This plant would take best in show on any of orchid shows.

However, it’s difficult to nominate it for flower award because of high standards of modern cattleyas.

The plant needs to be groomed for culture award - yellow and old leaves and pseudobulbs need to be removed and inflorescences should be stacked properly to show the beauty of flowers.

There was one post on Instagram from Arthur Chadwick - Bc. Empress of Russia (B. digbyana x C. mendelii), similar type of old hybrid. The lip of our candidate plant is much more attractive. I hope next year bloom would be even better and the plant would be a good candidate for culture award next year.

Exhibitor - Bill Stender, NJ