The biogeographical position of Chile has allowed the development of a large number of endemic species, particularly geophytes, with great potential for the ornamental plant and cut flower industry (Bridgen et al., 2002). Chilean cut flowers and bulbs exported during 2014 and 2013 were valued at U.S. $5.64 and $34.5 million, respectively (ODEPA, 2015). The bulb market in particular (i.e., Zantesdechia sp., Lilium sp., and Tulipa sp.) is growing in importance, although much of the production is consumed domestically. Orchids have become one of the largest commodities in the international cut flower and ornamental plant market, with an international trade value of U.S. $504 million in 2012, in which the genera Cymbidium, Dendrobium, and Phalaenopsis were the most traded (De and Medhi, 2015).
The first orchid hybrid was obtained in 1853 by John Dominy and since then, thousands of hybrids have been developed (Higgins and Alrich, 2013). In Chile, the Orchidaceae family is composed of seven genera, in which Chloraea Lindl. and Gavilea Poepp., are the most represented in terms of species richness (Novoa et al., 2006). Most of the species are rare, insufficiently known and endangered, because of human activities, which have dramatically reduced their ranges of distribution (Novoa et al., 2006). Both Chloraea and Gavilea have distinctive floral traits such as floral display, flower size, and shape within the Cranichideae tribe (Cisternas et al., 2012). Their flower characteristics with a long stem and extended vase life, suggest that these plants have great potential as a novel alternative for the cut flower market as well as a pot plant for the ornamental plant industry (Steinfort et al., 2012).
During the last decade in Chile, the Fundación para la Innovación Agraria of the Ministry of Agriculture supported several Chilean orchid breeding projects, to boost the development of the national floriculture industry and to exploit the unique features of Chilean species. One of the most important outcomes of these breeding projects was the development of the first intergeneric hybrid, Chlorogavilea ‘Máxima’ obtained from Chloraea crispa Lindl., and Gavilea longibracteata (Lindl.) Sparre ex Navas (Orchidaceae, Chloraeinae). The main objective of this work is to present the characteristics of this new hybrid, including its floral display, size, and its potential use as an ornamental pot plant.
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