What’s in a Name: Indigenous Orchids of the Andes Mountains

Orchids’ scientific names have often been chosen by people of European descent, even when those species are native to tropical Africa, Asia, Australia, or the Americas. However, many scientists are now paying overdue homage to these orchids’ native lands. Increasingly, they’re picking names to honor indigenous peoples, who may have had knowledge of these species for eons before they were scientifically discovered. For example, new names for orchids from the Andes have included Quechua words. Quechua is an indigenous American language spoken by the ancient Incas, and still spoken today by millions of people in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, and Argentina. There are five Quechua-inspired examples below, reflecting an increasing respect given to the language, its culture, and its people.

Masdevallia chuspipatae – named for the town of Chuspipata, Bolivia, chuspipata means “the top of a fly”

Telipogon antisuyuensisantisuyu means “region of the sunrise”

Telipogon phuyupatamarcensis – named for Phuyupatamarca, an archaeological site in Peru, phuyupatamarca means “town above the clouds”

Telipogon kosñipatensisqusñipash means “smoky” or “through the smoke”

Quechua glabrescens – The name of the Quechua language has been given to this genus of orchids.

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