King Phillip Came Out For Green Seeds

I didn’t learn much in my high school biology class, but many years later, I can still remember one thing: King Phillip Came Out For Green Seeds. That sentence, stuck in my head thanks to the power of mnemonics, is a useful memory trick for the levels of scientific classification of all living things: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. Botanists usually say “division” instead of “phylum,” but that messes up my sentence, so I’m sticking with what I know. In addition, there are many sublevels, but these are the main groupings.

Why is this relevant to orchid names? These classifications show orchid relations to each other and to other plants. Orchid name tags show the bottom levels in the list, the genus and species, i.e. Dendrobium nobile. Species which are in the same genus, i.e. Dendrobium, are closely related to one another. They may crossbreed to produce hybrids, and may have similar care needs. Other closely related orchids can also produce hybrids, but none can crossbreed outside its family.

All orchids share the first 5 rows in the table below. Then they start to diverge into different groups below the family level. I’ve included some sublevels (subfamily, tribe, and subtribe) in these 3 examples to illustrate further divisions. Even for those of us who aren’t fond of long Latin names, it’s still possible to use these classifications to understand how the plants are related.

Scientific Classification of 3 Orchids

Kingdom Plantae Plantae Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta Magnoliophyta Magnoliophyta
Class Liliopsida Liliopsida Liliopsida
Order Asparagales Asparagales Asparagales
Family Orchidaceae Orchidaceae Orchidaceae
Subfamily Epidendroideae Epidendroideae Cypripedioideae
Tribe Arethuseae Epidendreae Phragmipedieae
Subtribe Bletiinae Pleurothallidinae Phragmipediinae
Genus Arundina Masdevallia Phragmipedium
Species Arundina graminifolia Masdevallia chaparensis Phragmipedium kovachii

There are more sublevels below species, and orchid name tags often include them. Variations within species can show up as cultivars or awarded plants. Cultivar names and awards follow the genus and species names, i.e. Dendrobium victoria-reginae ‘Blues Brothers’ HCC/AOS.

For more detailed info on scientific classification of orchids, and a breakdown of the orchid family tree, check Wikipedia’s page on orchid taxonomy.

Explore posts in the same categories: Orchid Names

Subscribe to the About Orchids Blog:
AddThis Feed Button

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Comments on “King Phillip Came Out For Green Seeds”

  1. Jenny M. Says:

    This is the right web site for anyone who hopes to understand this topic. You certainly put a new spin on a subject that has been discussed for years.
    Wonderful stuff, just excellent!

  2. Shannon Steiner Says:

    This makes my head hurt. I haven’t seen so much latin since my last time at church.

  3. Alodeus6 Says:

    valuable info for the Bay area

  4. Sue Lee Says:

    Greetings from Colorado! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to check out your website on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the knowledge you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how fast your blog loaded on my phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, excellent blog!