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 individual’s 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 individual species or hybrids – usually man made).

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

Genus ( group)          species name             description                  growers given             Awards

The species name in the past was a ‘Latinized’ version of the name of the individual who discovered the orchid, for example in honour of Lady Lydia Elizabeth Ackland yields –  aclandiae.

Following the first two names, a description or version name such as ‘alba’ (an albino form) may be found.  As well, a ‘given name’ to identify a highly awarded plant with unique characteristics among its siblings may recognize a family member, like ‘Mary’.

Finally, there may follow a series of abbreviations in capital letters. These are indications that the plant has been awarded by orchid judges, and when purchasing an orchid the more awards the better, such as AM /AOS.  When shopping for orchids, the ‘Awarded Orchids’ are more expensive than the same orchids without an award.

On plant labels, two orchid names separated by an ‘X’ may be present. This indicates that two plants have been bred together. The mother, or seed pod parent is named first, and the father, or pollen giving parent is named second. This cross can be registered with a single last name that is capitalized, such as Cattleya Mary’s Choice