What’s in a name? Almost everything!

Serious growers like to know that their plant is tagged with the correct name – especially if that plant is ever going to be entered in a show. Apart from seeking the opinion of your fellow club members, there are others ways to check that the label that came with your plant is the right name or to finally give a name to an unlabelled plant.

Orchidwiz is a searchable database, available for purchase. Its website says that as of October 2016 the OrchidWiz database contained information on 162,673 orchid hybrids and 32,649 orchid species; 154,315 photographs and illustrations of orchids; 277,335 image references; and 4,763 orchid-species culture sheets by Charles Baker.  OrchidWiz also lists orchid species by 9 continents, 51 regions, and 334 botanical areas. Read more here. As you will see from the website there are various ways to purchase the information.

The Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia is an online database that is regularly updated – but covers orchid species only (ie, no hybrids) – and as of December 2016 included 21, 526 species in 855 genera. The site itself is a bit messy visually but is easy enough to negotiate. An annual subscription of $US10/year is requested. Read more here.

Understanding orchid names takes a bit of getting used to. The American Orchid Society offers a walk-through the basics. The Everything Orchids website expands on that a little, read more here.

Hybrid name abbreviations are a test of every grower’s patience – try Ravenvision’s Orchid Abbreviations for help or try this RHS pdf list from 2007.

If you’ve been growing orchids for a while, you’ll be aware that plants are continually being redefined, much of it to do with assigning plants to their ‘correct’ family – Brazilian Laelias are now Cattleyas (as are Sophronitis orchids), for instance, while Dockrillias have been separated from Dendrobiums.

With DNA testing now aiding their research, botanists will continue to ‘split’ or ‘lump’ plants. Whether you change the plant label is up to you but some old hands have been heard to mutter that they’ve given up after re-naming the same plant two or three times … so far! (Even the scientists get outraged, now and again.)

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