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
|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.
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