Orchid Names

With over 30,000 species of orchids identified world wide and more being discovered each year, a complex grouping and naming protocol has been developed by botanists over the years. The recent use of DNA technology has greatly helped in identification of family groupings and their relationships.

For the novice a few things are important to know. The genus name (first word) is the ‘group’ name, written in italics and always capitalized. The ‘species’ name (second word) is the name of the individuals species, italicized and the first letter is always in lower case. If the second name starts with a capital letter it is then a hybrid orchid (a cross between two individuals species or hybrids – usually man made).

Cattleya                 aclandiae                  var. alba                ‘Mauro Rosin’            AM/AOS

Genue( group)          species name             description                  growers given             Awards

The species name in past was a “Latinized” version of the name of the individual who discovered the orchid. (e.g. in honour of Lady Lydia Elizabeth Ackland yields –  aclandiae)

Following the first two names you may find a description or version name such as “alba” (an albino form).  A ‘given name’ to identify a highly awarded plant with unique characteristics among it’s siblings (growers will sometimes recognize a family member eg. “Mary”).

Finally, there may follow a series of abbreviations in capital letters. These indicate the awards the plant has received by orchid judges and when purchasing an orchid, the more awards the better. (eg. AM /AOS) When shopping for orchids you will often find the ‘Awarded Orchids’ are more expensive than the same orchids without an award.

On labels you will find two orchid names separated by an “X”. This indicates the two plants have been bred together with the mother (seed pod parent) named first and the father (pollen giving parent) named second. This cross can be registered with a single (Capitalized) last name. eg. Cattleya Mary’s Choice

Cattleya aclandiae ‘Mauro Rosin’ AM/AOS                Cattleya aclandiae var. alba ’Mauro Rosin’ AM/AOS