All in the family

Ajantha Palihawadana’s new Orchid varieties are named after his wife and children

Walking into his garden in early January to start watering his collection of orchids, breeder and researcher Ajantha Palihawadana noticed some flowers that looked different amidst the Dendrobiums. He quickly checked the plant tag and referred his hybridisation notes to realise that the flowering plant was a cross between Dendrobiumlineale and Dendrobium.shavinonwhite orchids.

Ajantha has selected the name Dendrobium Ganga rani for the new hybrid after his wife Ganga Rani Palihawadana in appreciation of her work in looking after his plant collection while he is out in the field.

Producing hybrid orchids, by crossing the orchids with pollen of other varieties to bring out new combinations has its own challenges, according to expert orchid breeders. Dendrobium is a huge genus of Orchids (Genus is a classification used to group one or more species that has common characteristics which is the taxonomic rank just above that of the species name) with over 1,600 species.
Ajantha recalls that he cross-pollinated Dendrobiumlineale and Dendrobiumshavionwhite in early 2003. Dendrobiumlineale is a species that grows along the north-eastern coast of New Guinea. Its inflorescences are up to 75 cm (30 in) long with many flowers- sometimes more than 60 flowers, which can bloom throughout the year. Dendrobiumshavionwhite is about six cm tall and 6.5 cm across, and has sepals and lateral petals which are white with light green veins. The column and lip are greenish white with slightly darker green veins.

“I was not sure what to expect; but I knew something valuable would come as the Dendrobiumlineale is a species with many flowers, a

Named after his son and daughter: Dendrobium Ganga rani var Kasun (left) and Dendrobium Ganga rani var Harini (right)

frequent flowering habit and tolerates more sunlight than other Dendrobiums. When the normal Dendrobium crosses flower for the first time they may produce three to four flowers, but the Dendrobium Ganga rani plant produced 24 flowers. I’m happy that what I dreamt of has come true,”Ajantha said Ajantha and his family found some of the other plants mature bringing more varieties of the new hybrid. Ajantha named them as Dendrobium Ganga rani var Kasun and Dendrobium Ganga rani var Harini after his son Anjana Kasun Palihawadana and his daughter Harini Yamani Palihawadana. “These two varieties are also equally promising since one of the parent plants has a prolific flowering habit so we can expect frequent flowering plants which could be a good attraction in the cut flower industry,” Ajantha added.

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