Bratonia Royal Robe is a lovely, intergeneric hybrid that although registered only in 1986, is rapidly becoming a classic in its own right. It used to be quite common around 10 years ago, but seems to have fallen out of favour recently. There are several named clones of this hybrid, though my plant didn’t come with a clonal name. I got it from Madeira via eBay and it was a nice healthy plant even then, even though it took two years to reach flowering size. There are both good and not so good points to this hybrid, which will be discussed below.
The parents of this hybrid are Bratonia Erachne x Miltonia Seminole Blood. Although Brassia arcuigera is only one of its grandparents, accounting for just 25% of its genetic background, its influence is very strong and is expressed in the starry shape of the flowers, and the shape of the lip, which is also very Brassia-like, with the colour being inherited from its Miltonia parentage, of which the greatest contributor is M. spectabilis, at 40%. Happily, the single- flowered influence of M. spectabilis has been lost, and Bratonia Royal Robe generally bears around four flowers clustered at the end of each inflorescence.
This hybrid is quite happy growing at warmer temperatures than many of the other Oncidium alliance hybrids, but is also very tolerant of cooler temperatures and greatly enjoys spending some time outdoors during the summer, provided it can be sheltered from direct sun and rain. It appreciates strong light, but should be kept lightly shaded at all times except during winter. The foliage is usually a light yellowish-green, and darker green usually indicates lack of sufficient light, which will inhibit flowering. Strong light also seems to result in deeper flower colour, although this does fade rather as the flowers age. The pseudobulbs are spaced a couple of centimetres apart, which is rather unfortunate as it makes this plant rather difficult to accommodate in a pot for any length of time, and therefore it requires frequent dividing to keep it under control. It is both fine-rooted and very shallowly rooted, and thus, doesn’t need a deep container.
Inflorescences are produced laterally and singly from newly matured pseudobulbs. The long-lasting flowers are wonderfully star-shaped and a rich deep-purple colour with occasional markings on both tepals and lip. The flower count tends to be small as a result of the strong influence of M. spectabilis, but the flowers are large and very showy. They are also strongly fragrant, especially on sunny days, and although the scent is not at all to my taste, I am reliably informed by almost everyone else that it is very pleasant indeed!