What's in a Name?

You just bought an orchid? Dont lose the name tag!-

  • It identifies the kind of orchid it is in case you want to ask for help or just brag.
  • It can tell you a lot about what culture is required.
  • If someone saw your nice flower, they would like to know what it is called.
  • Serious orchid growers/collectors need to know the pedigree to know how it relates to other breeding
  • The name is needed for display/judging purposes.

Years ago plants and animals were classified and organized into a structure that showed the relationships of one organism to another. A set of rules defines how everything is to be named. Latin was the universal language of science at the time and is still used today in the naming conventions.

As a simple example, we have:

Cattleya schilleriana

The first part of the name tells us that we have a member of the cattleya genus. The second part tells us that it is the species schilleriana. There are many other species of cattleya but this is a specific one. Also note that the word "cattleya" is capitalized - the genus is always capitalized. The species schilleriana is in lower case - a species name is always in lower case. And another point - we have a species - the singular form is "species" not "specie". A little looking would tell us that the genus was named after a William Cattley in 1842 and this species was named after a Mr Schiller. Because it is a species, the names have been Latinized.

Now for another example:

Slc Jewel Box 'Scheherazade'

The "Slc" stands for "Sophrolaeliocattleya". Well it seems that some orchids of one genus will actually cross with orchids of a different genus. The result is an intergeneric hybrid. In this case we have a Sophronitis species crossed with a Laelia crossed with a Cattleya. No, not all at the same time! Anyway, we now have a hybrid that was called "Jewel Box". Notice the capital letters - it is not a species. The word in quotes, "Scheherazade", is the name given to one special plant of this cross, a specific clone. There were many babies from this cross but one really stood out and it had to have a name of its own. If your plants dont already have a clonal name, you can give them one of your own.

A more complicated one:

Paphiopedilum Armeni White (armeniacum 'Spectacular II' FCC/AOS x delanatii 'Pink Mist')

The capitals on "Armeni White" tell us that this is a hybrid within the genus Paphiopedilum. The brackets signal that what follow tells us about the parents. "Armeni White" is a cross between Paphiopedilum armeniacum and Paphiopedilum delanatii. The clonal names tell us which specific parents were used in the cross. By convention, the seed-producing (female) parent is listed first, followed by the "x", followed by the pollen (male) parent. It is sometimes very important to know which was which. The group of plants resulting from the cross is called a grex.

The other thing present, the "FCC/AOS" is an award designation. The American Orchid Society (AOS) has many types of awards, this one being a First Class Certificate. The common awards are HCC, AM, and FCC, the FCC being the highest.

Let us say that my plant of this cross just won an AM/AOS and I called the plant "Snow Queen", what would my label look like?

Paphiopedilum Armeni White 'Snow Queen' AM/AOS
(armeniacum 'Spectacular II' FCC/AOS x delanatii 'Pink Mist')

What if I divide the plant to sell a piece - what goes on the tag? ANS: Just what is on it now. They are both the same clone. What if I divide the plant, sell the piece and that piece wins an award? ANS: The clonal name and award can now be put on my plant's name tag. It is the same actual plant or clone. A different plant of the same cross doesnt count.

And finally:

Potinara Little Toshie 'Golden Fantasy' (Blc Toshie Aoki x Sc Beaufort)

The thing to note here is that one parent is a "Blc" which stands for "Brassolaeliocattleya" and "Sc" which is "Sophrocattleya". The genera combined in this cross are Brassavola, Laelia, Cattleya with Sophronitis and Cattleya. This combination of four genera is called a Potinara. The link below gives a table of all the intergeneric genus names with their abbreviation.

You might also find a couple other terms on a plant label from time to time. One is self, which indicates that the parent was self-pollinated. The label usually shows xself. The other possibility is sib or sib-cross, usually abbreviated xsib or xsibling. Technically this refers to a brother-sister cross, but it is generally used to refer to two different clones being crossed.

Orchid hybrid names are registered by the Royal Horticultural Society. They have a web site (listed below) that provides access to the name registry. It is always a good idea to look up your hybrid name to see if the name has actually been registered, if it is spelled correctly, and to determine the parents. If you have the parents only, check to see if the cross has been named.

For more information here are a few links:


Glossary

clone
An individual plant raised from a single seed, with all its subsequent vegetative propagations.
genus
A subdivision of a family, consisting of one or more species which show similar characteristics and appear to have a common ancestry.
genera
plural of genus.
grex
A flock or group, applied collectively to the offspring of a given cross.
hybrid
The offspring resulting from the union of a species or hybrid with another species or hybrid.
intergeneric
Between or among two or more genera.
selfing or self-pollination
The pollination of a flower with pollen from the same plant.
species
a kind of plant distinct from other kinds.

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