Is it possible to have an unusual color form of an orchid without some controversy? The lovely yellow Vanda (Neofinetia) falcata certainly fall into that category of orchids with questionable origins and enlivening discussions.
There has been reoccurring debate for years whether yellow Vanda falcata are “natural,” i.e., wild-collected, or a product of some distant (or recent) hybridization with Ascocentrum species. The current consensus is that they are ALL hybrids, even though the plant itself looks rather indistinguishable from a true Vanda (Neofinetia) falcata.
Jason Fischer, well known Neofinetia grower and exhibitor, made some inquiries to growers in Japan about their perspective, and they were unanimous that all of the yellow color forms were hybrids. The only natural “yellow” Vanda (Neofinetia) falcata would probably be better described as “cream” colored rather than the vivid yellow seen in other cultivars.
Most, if not all, of the recent claims for wild-collected yellow Vanda (Neofinetia) falcata have been purported to originate from just one source. It has even been speculated that hybridizations were made in situ in the wild, and then the “wild” plants were collected. The incentive for such an effort is the high price that these orchids can command in Japan, into the many thousands of dollars. While imaginative, I find it remarkable to successfully undertake something of this nature; that is, pollinate wild plants and then collect quality yellow-flowered blooming size plants many years later.
My guess is that Vanda (Neofinetia) falcata has been in cultivation for such a long time that crosses were made, and then backcrossed over a few generations, with some plants expressing the Ascocentrum “yellow flower” gene while retaining, or returning to, the Vanda falcata vegetative characteristics. The origins of some of these cultivars might be genuinely forgotten over many decades (or centuries) of breeding. Perhaps these breeding lines have been re-created recently as well. Compared to other modern Vanda falcata hybrids that I have observed, the yellow-flowered forms in our collection look much more consistent with the “pure” species (which itself has considerable variability in leaf shape, color, and size).
We have two yellow-flowered Vanda falcata cultivars. While we are not ardent collectors of Neofinetia, we do like yellow flowers and took the opportunity to purchase these divisions from a well-known grower to add to our small collection. They are an easy-growing, fragrant, and beautiful species. The first set of photographs are of Vanda falcata ‘Kousaiko’ and the final two are Vanda falcata ‘Yellow Dragon.’ As you can see in both cultivars, the buds and flowers open white to cream-colored, and then acquire the deeper yellow coloration, after 4-5 days.
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