Orchid Names

OK, I admit it — as a website and blog about orchid basics, it’s past time that I tackled understanding orchid names. Whether reading a plant tag, researching care info, or talking to a fellow orchid grower, we all encounter those long names. So I’ve created a new category, Orchid Names, and this is the first post to help unravel this complex topic. Whether you’ve just bought your first orchid or you’re an experienced grower, consider this as a primer that I’ll build upon.

Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus established biology’s system of binomial nomenclature in the 1700’s. Using Latin names, it allows everyone on the planet to have the same name for the same plant or animal. The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature currently governs the system for all plant species and hybrids, and the names that we see most often are the genus and species.

Let’s start by deciphering the name tags for these 3 orchid varieties:

Cattleya loddigesiiPhalaenopsis Maki WatanabePaphiopedilum Dollgoldi

The first photo is Cattleya loddigesii, an orchid species. The genus name is Cattleya, and the species name is loddigesii. The discoverer of this orchid named it for George Loddiges, an English orchid grower in the 1800’s. Written properly, the genus name is capitalized, and the species name is lowercase: Cattleya loddigesii.

The second is Phalaenopsis Maki Watanabe. It’s a hybrid in the Phal family, named by its creator for someone called Maki Watanabe. The fact that Maki Watanabe is capitalized shows that it’s a hybrid, not a species. This variety is a cross between 2 other hybrids, Phal. Romance Miki and Phal. Otohime. Sometimes a name tag lists a hybrid’s parents with an “x” between them to show the cross: Phal. Romance Miki x Phal. Otohime.

The third is Paphiopedilum Dollgoldi AM/AOS.  This hybrid is a cross between 2 species, Paph. rothschildianum and Paph. armeniacum. The capitalized Dollgoldi shows that it’s a hybrid, not a species, and I’d guess that it’s a reference to the bright yellow flower.  The initials after that, AM/AOS, indicate that this cross has earned an Award of Merit from the American Orchid Society. The AOS grants the AM and other awards to recognize excellence in orchid breeding and cultivation.

The award systems used by orchid societies and the horticulture industry vary in different countries. Besides the AOS, Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society uses the initials RHS in its award system, such as Paphiopedilum Rosy Dawn AGM/RHS. AGM stands for Award of Garden Merit.

Explore posts in the same categories: Orchid Names, Photos

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6 Comments on “Orchid Names”

  1. Lilah Rubin Says:

    So helpful and so useful post. Thanks for such informative post. Good job.

  2. nancy Says:

    I guess you’ll go over pronunciation in a future post 😉

  3. Djamila Jaber Says:

    This post is very useful for me, much appreciated! 🙂

  4. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » Masdevallia Says:

    […] That’s the largest city in Chapare Province, which provides the species name Masdevallia chaparensis. […]

  5. JL969 Says:

    Thanks for the helpful blog.

  6. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » Genus Abbreviations Says:

    […] Unlike species, hybrid, and cultivar names, which follow formal rules, these abbreviations are informal. […]