Mutation With Orchids (1928)
Lucien Reychler

Ordinary Cattleya labiata. (fig 1) Mutant A of Cattleya labiata - with regard to the dimension of the petals
(fig 2) Mutant B of Cattleya labiata - with regard to the number of the petals
Mme. Lucien Reychler (Mutant B x Mutant A)

Mme. Etienne Rabaud (Mutant A x L.C. Colmaniana)
L.C. Colmaniana - Cattleya Aurea x L.C. Arnoldiana
L.C. Arnoldiana - Laelia purpurata x Cattleya Gigas


Before touching upon the results obtained with Cattleyas by crossings in which one of the parents, at least, is a Mutant, let us say a few words about the two Mutants of Cattleya Labiata A (fig. 1) and B (fig. 2) of which I made use:

The Mutant of Cattleya Labiata A (fig. 1) is an imported plant; it is characterized by five broad petals, while the normal form bears two broad petals and three narrow ones, (fig. 3); with this Mutant, the two broad, lower petals partly bear the maculation of the labellum.  It is a Mutant which has regularly flowered during several consecutive years, always showing the same form of flower.

The Mutant of Cattleya Labiata B (fig 2) is also an imported plant.

The photo (fig. 2) was taken during the 2nd year that the plant flowered in my hothouses. I was extremely interested in the new, regular form which this Mutant showed. Note well that instead of two broad petals and three narrow ones (normal form), we here observe the existence of 3 broad petals and 4 narrow ones. It always seemed to me that during the first year of importation, this Cattleya did not give me, with regard to the flower, such a regular, abnormal form. This fact is of importance, as we shall see further on.

Although the plant was puny (which the photo of the flower also shows), I nevertheless decided to use it as seed-parent. It did not survive the burden that I had laid upon it.


It is a principle known to every hybridizer that the new characteristics which characterize a Mutant, have a tendency not only to perpetuate, but to develop themselves in the descent.

Going by these facts, I made different trials of crossings with orchids, especially with Cattleyas, showing mutations of form and colour in the flower and this in two different ways:

First case: One of the parents only being a Mutant: the Mutant A (fig. 1).

Second case: Both parents being Mutants: a) the Mutants A (fig. 1) and B (fig. 2); b) I tried again the self-fertilization of the Mutant A (fig. 1).


Among the plants produced by crossings made according to the first case (one of the parents being normal and the other the Mutant A (fig 1), I found, roughly speaking, 3 very different characteristic forms of flowers:

1° The normal form of the flower of a kind of Cattleya, that is to say, that, of one of the parents.

2° The form of the Mutant A (fig. i), that is to say, the form of the flower of the other parent.

3° An intermediate form of flower between that of the two parents.

Considering the extremely limited number of the seedlings compared with the millions of seeds which the combined pods bore, I thought it better not to confine myself to exact figures and to simply state that the number of descendants resembling the normal form is, on the whole, very much the same as that of the individuals which have adopted, in their main outlines, the characteristics of the Mutant. Only the form clearly intermediate between the two parents is exceedingly rare, hardly any individuals among several hundreds of plants having had a flower till now.

I add clearly because, in fact, in all crossings, both the father and the mother probably exercise their influence. Only, the question of the influence of the patents, enquired into minutely, is exclusively a matter of interest for Biological Science. But from a horticultural point of view, we can be satisfied with a rougher examination (and how much so!!!) with our eyes, which allows us to classify the descent according to the three quite distinct forms in question.

I have been, besides, led to make a very interesting discovery which tends to prove how true is what I have just said about the collective influence of the parents and I draw the special attention of researchers to this fact: in many cases where the descendant acquires the general form of the Mutant, it nevertheless possesses, as to details, elements given by the normal parent.

The fact would be still more obvious, if I could show at the side of the photograph of each product which has acquired the form of the Mutant of Cattleya A (fig. 1), that of the normal parent. Unfortunately, the normal plants got lost among the heap, or died during the winter of 1917 and 18, for want of heating and care. We must content ourselves with normal types something like them, which will be treated of in the following lines and which already allow us 'to make many an interesting comparison.


All the normal Cattleyas of which I made use, either as father or as seed parent belonged, roughly speaking of course, to one of the forms of Cattleya (fig. 3, 4, 5 and 6). As stated above, I .show these photos so that the reader may follow the influence of the normal parents with the different crossings of which I give the photos.

Here is the type fig. 3 which shows a perfect form of Cattleya Labiata. Then comes fig. 4, which is a reproduction of Cattleya Loddigesi, which is characterised by a small deformed special labellum and with its petals perceptibly alike.

In fig. 5, we show the type of the Brasso-Cattlera (Brassavola-Dygbiana x Cattleya) which is distinguished by an immense Labellum very finely fringed.

The photo furnished by fig. 6 recalls the form of a hybrid with a partially unknown ascendance. I made use of this hybrid for a crossing, because the bronze colour of the petals pleased me very much and because the bright claret colour of the labellum was remarkable. Moreover, the labellum was of a very special shape, as will be observed, although the photo which ought to give as precise an idea of it as possible, has already a slightly modified labellum. This photo, however, allows one to form a fairly clear idea of the general aspect of the hybrid in question. I remember that the latter had as one of its parents the Cattleya Aurea, the other was unknown by the specialist himself who gave it to me.

Let us now pass to the photographs of the crossings themselves.

These photographs generally give the exact dimensions of the flowers. Where there is a difference, these dimensions will be rather slightly reduced.


Let us now pass on to the photographs showing crossings of the second category: those coming from a Mutant through a Mutant, that is to say, from the crossing of the Mutant of Cattleya Labiata B (fig. 2) with the Mutant of Cattleya Labiata A (fig. 1). A very simple argument took place in my mind at this crossing; I said to myself: the Mutant of Cattleya A (fig. 1) represents a Mutant in dimension 5 broad petals instead of two broad and three narrow ones, which the normal type has got. The Mutant of Cattleya Labiata B (fig. 2) shows a Mutant in number, that is to say, instead of the 5 petals of the normal type, there are 7 of them, 3 broad and 4 narrow ones.

If, in the descent, we could succeed in creating individuals uniting the qualities of the Mutant in dimension and those of the Mutant in number, we should obtain cattleyas with 7 broad petals, which would be an unexpected progress. Well, in the result, the number 7 was greatly exceeded, since the flower of a seedling attained 13 as the number of its petals. Only, with these double flowers, the labellum has almost entirely disappeared; this will be seen, moreover, by the photos of the 3 « double » individuals, (fig 32-33-34).

With regard to the form of the flowers, we have observed in 45 individuals of this crossing which flowered up till now, the appearance:

a) Of double forms (3 plants out of 45 individuals);

b) Of the form of the father, that is to say, of the Mutant of Cattleya Labiata A (fig. 1).

c) Of the normal form of the Cattleya Labiata (type fig. 3).

d) Of « impossible » forms (fig. 35-36-37-38).

It is to be observed that, up till now, we have not perceived with any seedling the form of the Mutant of Cattleya Labiata B (fig. 2) that has served as seed-parent, which would tend to confirm (?) the suppositions that I expressed in the first pages, that this Mutant does not produce the same form of abnormal flower every year. It was a kind of variable Mutant of the flower, if one can call it so.

What is, moreover, very curious is that with the « impossible » forms the flowers on a same stalk different. This leads me to suppose that it is not so certain that when the plants with double flowers produce two flowers, that these will be exactly identical. It is possible that they will be quite different. It is not even certain that, from year to year, a same plant will give the same form of double flower. I base my suppositions on the fact which I have just mentioned when stating that the Mutant of Cattleya Labiata B (fig. 2) had no abnormal flowers of the same form for two consecutive years.

This characteristic of the Mutant B (fig. 2) might be passed on in the descent (???). The future will show this and we shall see by examining the photos next year how it is. It would be useless to make purely theoretical comments on this subject; they could teach us nothing positive.

The ovaries of the double flowers, as well as those of flowers with impossible forms are very curious in structure. Certain double flowers have the 4 pollinies, others have less. In short, all this is most interesting from a biological point of view and merits serious and profound study, which should be taken up by scientists.


Fig 43. Fig. 44.
Mutant of imported Cattleya Labiata (fig. 1). Flower coming from the same plant as fig. 43, showing a modified type of Mutant, which appeared after a crossing in which the plant was taken as seed parent (the flower served as male being of normal form.)

I have noticed that the Mutant of Cattleya Labiata A (fig. 1) having been fertilised by a plant with flowers of normal type had, during the years that followed the gathering in of the seeds, modified the form of its flowers in such a way that it resembled a little more the normal type. Here are the two forms for comparison:

Fig. 43. Mutant of imported Cattleya Labiata. A (fig. 1).

Fig. 44. flower of the same plant, showing the modified type which appeared after the plant had served as seed-parent, the pollen-parent having been a type of normal Cattleya of normal form, (L. C. Colmaniana. Notice the modification of the lower petals).

Fig. 45 Fig. 46
Primitive type of mutant of Cattleya Trianae Fig. 46-47-48, successive modifications undergone by the Mutant fig. 43, the plant having served several times as seed-parent (the pollen plants having been either a Cattleya with normal or a Mutant of the Form A (fig. 1)

Fig. 47 Fig. 48

The same incident happened with a mutant of Cattleya Trianae which was chosen several times as seed-parent (I was not successful in causing the seeds to germinate which, however, a couple of times were good).

Fig. 45. original type of Mutant of imported Cattleya Trianae.

Fig. 46-47-48. modified flowers of the original type (fig. 45), showing how, after successive crossings with types of normal Cattleyas, or with the Mutant of Cattleya Labiata A (fig. 1) the original type of the Mutant has become modified. I have no exact data on these successive crossings, I know that I have made the crossings in question, but I do not remember any exact details as to the number, or as to the individuals, of which I made use.

Here is another case of the influence of the plant having served as pollen-parent on the seed-parent a very beautiful Brasso-Cattleya (C. Trianae alba x Brassavola Dygbiana) having flowers of a greenish white was taken as seed-parent, the plant chosen as father being a white Cattleya also, only the whites are not always of pure descent.

What was my astonishment to observe again in that year that this Brasso-Cattleya with greenish white flowers gave me a flower of a clearly pinkish tint. It was no longer even white!!! Here is an influence exercised by the pollen parent on the colour of the flower of the seed parent (??) I state what I have experienced. My conclusions are evidently not supported by a. sufficient number of experiments; but they are worthy of being taken into consideration. (1)

I quote these facts to draw attention to the following important point, which the practical man will have to take into account and which can be summed up as follows:

Whoever wishes to keep a plant untouched by any influence, must make use of it exclusively as pollen parent, and never as seed parent. This is of the greatest importance when we intend to keep the form or new qualities intact in a fine Mutant. I cannot answer for the absolute correctness of this advice, but I prove by examples and show by the photos what I have stated, in order to make the serious hybridizer, who wishes to do interesting work, prudent, and thus spare himself the surprise of discovering one fine morning that, to his great despair, a unique form has become modified... I speak from experience.

L. R.


By the publication of the preceding pages, scientists and practical men can convince themselves, as I pointed out in the preface, of the important part that can be played by Mutation among plants and, consequently, of the importance of all research which tends to provoke it systematically.

After this, I venture to recall here how full of interest are the researches published in my previous booklets, the names of which will be found on one of the first pages of this album.

I specially draw your attention to the importance of the problems considered in the pamphlet entitled Concerning the possibility of provoking systematically among plants

Sooner or later, we must resolve to carry out the experiments and to follow the methods of work explained therein. We shall have to apply to all species of plants which allow of it:

All this can be summed up as follows causing the sexual elements and the beings in formation to grow and to develop in the ovary, under conditions different from the natural ones.

And this in order to succeed in breaking the initial rhythm of growth of the species which the pollen parent and seed parent strive to confer hereditarily on the descent and thus result in provoking systematically the appearance of new, hereditary, phenomena, namely Mutation.

Numberless researchers, scientists as well as practical men will rush one day to the conquest of these unexplored fields which are opening out both to Botanical Biology and to Horticultural Science.

The results will not be long in coming, only some dozen years will be necessary before they are fully developed. These new fields of work that I have had the luck or the Mission to discover in the plant world are, moreover inexhaustible. They will interest Mankind as long as they take an interest in Botanical Biology or Horticultural Science and the methods of investigation which I advocate will remain, in their main points of course, probably unchanged.

I have therefore the right, as I repeat on every occasion, to expect "that my researches be taken up during my lifetime, that they be completed and continued". It was with this wish that I ended the preface and I wish it to end my conclusion also.


January 1928