|Miltonia Lindl. (1837)
Miltonia, abbreviated Milt. in the horticultural trade, is an orchid genus formed by nine epiphyte species and eight natural hybrids inhabitants of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, one species reaching the northeast of Argentina and east of Paraguay. This genus was established by John Lindley in 1837, when he described its type species, Miltonia spectabilis. Many species were attributed to Miltonia in the past, however, today, the species from Central America and from cooler areas on northwest of South America have been moved to other genera. Miltonia species have large and long lasting flowers, often in multifloral inflorescences. This fact, allied to being species that are easy to grow and to identify, make them a favorite of orchid collectors all over the world. Species of this genus are extensively used to produce artificial hybrids.
Despite the fact that Miltonia is now a well established genus, most of its species were originally classified under other genera as Cyrtochilum, Oncidium, Odontoglossum, and Brassia. All were discovered between 1834 and 1850 with the exception of M. kayasimae, discovered only in 1976.
These epiphytic orchids occur from Central to Southern Brazil down to Argentina.
These orchids have two leaves, arising from a pseudobulbs, covered with a foliaceous sheath. The inflorescence consists of waxy, nonspurred flowers. The lip is large and flat and lacks a callus at its base. They possess a footless column with two hard pollinia. The flowers have a delicate, exotic scent, some compare to that of roses.
They are named after Charles Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 5th Earl Fitzwilliam, formerly Viscount Milton, an English orchid enthusiast.
The species in this genus are sometimes referred to as the pansy orchids, but it is the Miltoniopsis orchids that have flowers that closely resemble the pansy. Almost everyone except for the most serious orchid hobbyists use the name pansy orchids interchangeably, which may cause confusion.
Miltonia looks more like Oncidiums than the other pansy orchids. The most "pansy-like" a Miltonia can get is the species Miltonia spectabilis. Taxonomists are debating whether to put Miltonia into the Oncidium genus because of the many connections between the two.
Miltoniopsis is the pansy orchid with huge showy flowers. They grow in cooler climates and are more challenging to grow than Miltonia.
This genus forms with Miltoniopsis a hybrid genus xMilmiltonia J.M.H.Shaw.
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Learn more about the growing and appreciating of the Miltonia from various sources.
Species, by definition, are produced in nature. Orchid species are a bit more difficult to tend to as they are accustomed to specific conditions and much less forgiving than hybrids.
The vast majority of plants for sale are hybrids that some breeder dreamed up and made a reality. The resulting progeny from the union of two different species (known as a primary hybrid), or of a species and a hybrid, or of two hybrids (known as a complex hybrid). Typically easier to tend to as growing conditions along with the appearance of the flower are considered in the hybrid process.
The Miltonia orchids are intermediate climate orchids. These orchids are found in its natural habitat in places like Brazil and to a lesser extent in Columbia and Ecuador as well where the Miltoniopsis orchid tends to thrive since they are slightly cooler-growing orchids.
When people talk about Miltonia orchids, they usually refer to both Miltonia and Miltoniopsis orchids. The reality is that these two types of orchids come from different places and have almost opposite requirements in temperature and light. People also use the nick name “pansy orchid” to refer to both Miltonia and Miltoniopsis, but in fact Miltonia species looks nothing like the garden flower pansy. Miltoniopsis is the one that look like the sweet-looking pansy.
Why the confusion? Because some time ago, these two orchids belong to the same genus, Miltonia. Growers distinguished the two by referring to the now Miltoniopsis as “cool-growing” or “Columbian” Miltonia, even though Miltoniopsis orchids are not necessarily cool growing nor from Columbia. Then one day, some taxonomists say, “Enough is enough!” and created the genus Miltoniopsis. But you think that solved the confusion problem? Nothing is that straightforward in the taxonomy world! After the separation, the hybrids between Miltoniopsis and Miltonia orchids retain the name Miltonia, even when some of them clearly have Miltoniopsis heritage and have the pansy appearance.
For many years growers used the name Miltonia to refer to those plants known as the 'cool growing' or 'Colombian' Miltonias. The other members of the genus, mostly from Brazil, were pretty much ignored. Now that the most well known and commonly grown plants have been reclassified to the genus Miltoniopsis, those other Miltonias, the Brazilian species, are left as the only Miltonias.
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