The large and extensive family of orchids has been fascinating to flower growers for centuries. Yet while orchids remain one of the best loved flowers of the flora world, it is often confusing as to how they get their names. Here is some basic information on the naming of orchid species.
•All orchids belong to the plant family called Orchidacae. This category covers all orchids regardless of shape, color or type of growth. This is the largest category in the plant kingdom. The family of Orchidacae covers approximately 25, 000-30,000 orchids with more species being discovered all the time.
•The next subcategory in the naming of orchids is called the Family. These are breakdowns in type of orchids from the overall category of Orchidacae. These orchids share fundamental similarities that make for arrangement of certain types together.
•Within each family, plants with still greater degrees of similarity are grouped together in Genera, (the singular form being known as Genus). This is a further breakdown into categories of orchids but still not highly specific.
•The next category that orchids are placed in is the species. Within each of the genus, plants that are identical except for minor variations are grouped together in species. The genus and species names are underlined or italicized.
•The final category that is used to name orchids is known as the variation. These plants do not have major differences that would enable them to be placed within a different species, but the differences are significant enough to be noted. This is done by placing var. after the plant name. This denotes that these plants are slightly different than the other plants within their genus and species categories.
There are important things to note in the way that orchid names are listed. This includes both the way the names are listed and where some of them have originated from.
Each and every orchid has a scientific name consisting of two parts, somewhat like a person might be named “Bob Smith”. However, with plants it would be written as “Smith bob”. The genus always comes first, then the individual name which is not capitalized. Each species in the same genus has a different species name that is unique to their strain of plant.
Orchid names (all botanical names) are usually derived from Greek or Latin and, as a result, pronunciation is sometimes difficult. The following guide may help you pronounce the names of various common genera. These are some of the most common types of orchids available.
Cattleya (Kat-lee-a) This is a Latinized name in honor of William Cattley.
Cymbidium (Sim-BID-ee-um) This name means boat shaped in Greek.
Dendrobium (Den-DROH-bee-um) This name is Greek meaning “tree living”.
Epidendrum (Eh-pi-DEN-drum) This means “upon tree” in Greek.
Laelia (Lay-lee-a) This orchid was named after a vestal virgin.
Oncidium (on-SID-ee-um) This is Greek meaning pad on the flower lip
There is also a different category of orchid name that exists for hybrid orchids. Hybrids are created by crossing different species, often in the same genus. Yet when species from two different genera are crossed, they are given bi-generic names consisting of the parent’s generic name and a common name (not a species name). For example, when Laelia pumila is crossed with Cattleya walkeriana the offspring are called “Laeliiocattleya Mini Purple” which is usually shortened to “Lc. Mini Purple”. The common name differs from the scientific name in that they are capitalized, and not based on Greek or Latin. Keep in mind that the genetic crossing can be quite multiple resulting in far more complex names. Thus, for complex hybrids, names are often shortened, but they still allow the grower to know in general terms the background of the hybrid. Each hybrid that receives a common name that can be traced to the various crosses made to produce the plant. By keeping track of both scientific and registered common names in the hybridization of orchids, botanists and interested growers are able to follow the behavior of genetic material and develop flowers with different colors, shape, size, and blooming season.