Orchids forum: The Names Game

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Name: Jim Hawk
Odessa, Florida (Zone 9b)
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hawkarica
May 27, 2016 6:22 PM CST
There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to orchid names and orchid naming so I thought we should gather all of the questions and answers together to see if we could sort it out. I will use examples freely to illustrate the rules. I don’t know everything so I may say something that isn’t right. Please feel free to correct me as this is above all a place to learn.

The first term in an orchid name is the genus (genera is plural). It is always capitalized and may be abbreviated. Since there are more orchids than any other plant in the plant kingdom, there are many genera (somewhere around 1000). Then there are the intergenerics - the man-made genera that are the results of crosses of plants from different genera - sometime more than 2 genera are involved.

For example, Cattleya is a genus. If they cross a Brassavola (another genus) with a Cattleya, it is called Brassocattleya and can be abbreviated Bc. Now if they throw another genus into the mix, such as a Laelia, it becomes a Brassolaeliocattleya and is abbreviated Blc. Please note that a Blc. is still considered a genus so it's still the first term in a name and is still capitalized.

If you should run across an abbreviation that you are unfamiliar with, you can look it up on this website which is alphabetized by abbreviation: http://www.orchidsaustralia.com/download_abbrevtab.pdf

Now the boffins like to play and they may throw a fourth, fifth or even a sixth genus into the mix. It is obvious that you can’t continue to stack the names end to end so we have the “ara” words. So, if you have four or more genera combined into a single genus, they use a word, usually a name, and add “ara”. For example, Fergusonara is Brassavola X Cattleya X Laelia X Schomburgkia X Sophronitis. Most of us have heard of Potinara which is Brassavola X Cattleya X Laelia X Sophronitis. Just know that when your genus name ends in an “ara” there are lots of genera that have gone into the plants make-up.

As most of us know, the boffins have made many genera name changes in the past couple of years. So when I see a name like Potinara, which is made up of many genera, I can pretty well assume that one or more of those genus names have changed which will change the Potinra name. It is kind of like the domino effect. For example, Brassavola digbyana was used over and over to cross with other orchids to make new hybrids. When they changed it to be Rhyncholaelia digbyana, all of the offspring had to change as well. So many of the Blc. orchids became Rlc. Orchids.

All of the orchids I have mentioned so far have been in the Cattley alliance. An alliance is a closely related group of orchids which can be interbred. Thus, the Brassavolas and Cattleys are in the same alliance. You have never heard of a Dendrobium/Cattleya hybrid because they are in different alliances.

You may be surprised to know that the genus Bulbophyllum is the largest with over 2000 species.

Now take a look at the second name of your orchid. If it begins with a lower case letter, the orchid is a species, which means it occurs naturally in nature. So, Cattleya skinneri. is a species orchid. If the second name starts with a capital letter, it is a hybrid. So, Cymbidium Valley League is a hybrid orchid. If there is an x written between the genus and the second name, it is a naturally occurring hybrid and is considered a species. Thus it will begin in a lower case letter. Thus, Dendrobium x delicatum is a naturally occurring hybrid.

I’m getting tired and will get back to this but first I want to answer what seemed like a question from Patty. Offspring of hybridized plants are called Grex. So, that nice little Phal I posted the other day read Phalaenopsis Little Gem Stripes (Phalaenopsis Taisuco Stripe x Phalaenopsis Taisuco Gem). Both parents listed here are hybrids as you can see by the capital letters in the second term of their names. That makes Phal. Little Gem Stripes a Grex.

I hope this helped someone and we will continue soon.

Jim
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[Last edited by hawkarica - Aug 28, 2016 4:40 PM (+)]
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Name: Ted
Brea, CA (Zone 10b)
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Ted5310
May 27, 2016 6:40 PM CST
My head hurts, but I think this helped.. I kow I will use this thread as a reference. And the link is just what I was looking for, Jim
Thanx
Name: Ursula
Fair Lawn NJ, zone 6b
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Ursula
May 27, 2016 6:49 PM CST

Moderator

Jim, this is really helpful and I made this thread a sticky!
I am not great with the new abbreviations either! This link is nice and handy!
Name: lindsey
wesley chapel, fl
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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sugarcane
May 27, 2016 7:13 PM CST
I tip my hat to you.
it's a thankless job, Jim...but never the less...thank you!
lindsey
Name: Carol
Santa Ana,Ca. (Zone 10b)
Sunset zone 22
Charter ATP Member Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Orchids Region: California Plant Identifier
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ctcarol
May 27, 2016 7:49 PM CST
Jim, Thank you for plunking out the $ for OrchidWhiz! I had looked at it, but decided I don't grow enough to bother. You are keeping all of up to date on this stuff. Thumbs up
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
May 28, 2016 12:00 PM CST
Great job, Jim. I had to stop and get more coffee in the middle, to keep my brain from crashing. But made it all the way to the end without my eyes crossing.

Despite all my facetious remarks, I do appreciate your efforts to keep us up to date. Thanks!
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Jim Hawk
Odessa, Florida (Zone 9b)
Charter ATP Member Hibiscus Birds Bromeliad Greenhouse Master Gardener: Florida
Garden Photography Region: United States of America Roses Tropicals Region: Florida Orchids
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hawkarica
May 28, 2016 7:17 PM CST
I'm back and I just re-read what I wrote yesterday. I think the genus part of the name looks pretty good so let's continue with the second term in the name, the species or the Grex. Remember, if it is a species, a naturally occurring orchid, it starts with a lower case letter and is written in Latin. Examples are Galeottia grandiflora and Spathogolttis plicatta. The name may be descriptive as to the size of the flower or the place where it is found, like Encyclia tampensis. Also, species names can be used in multiple genera. For example, floribunda is a popular species name and can be a Habenaria, a Masdevallia, a Maxillaria or several other genera and the flowers are not at all related.

If it is an offspring of hybrids, it is a Grex and is never written in Latin and begins with a capital letter. It is easy to detect a Grex as the name can be something like Lyonara Memoria Doug Lace or Encyclia Hunty's Heartburn. No, I didn’t make that up. The hybridizer must pay a fee and can then name it what he likes. It is important to note that that the parents of a Grex named orchid will always produce that orchid regardless of how the hybrid is made. For example, if orchid A is the seed parent and orchid B is the pod parent it produces a Grex orchid named C. Now if they remake the orchid using orchid A as the Pod parent and orchid B as the seed parent, it will still be Grex orchid C. For that reason, orchids with the same Grex name may not look at all alike.

It is this second name that I type into OrchidWiz to try to figure out what new orchid I just bought. If it is misspelled or I can’t read it, it can be a long evening.

OK, I’ll let you chew on that and will return tomorrow to talk about the third term in your orchid name, the cultivar or clonal name.

Jim
Name: Ursula
Fair Lawn NJ, zone 6b
Charter ATP Member Spiders! Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Pennsylvania Greenhouse Cactus and Succulents
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Ponds Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: New Jersey
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Ursula
May 28, 2016 7:24 PM CST

Moderator

Thumbs up
Name: lindsey
wesley chapel, fl
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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sugarcane
May 28, 2016 7:27 PM CST
Thank You!
lindsey
Name: Ted
Brea, CA (Zone 10b)
Bulbs Region: Southwest Gardening Container Gardener Region: California Herbs Hummingbirder
Dog Lover Tropicals Cactus and Succulents Orchids Ferns Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Ted5310
May 28, 2016 8:18 PM CST
Jim, this is outstanding. I'm really getting it. I have always been lost as to the Grex. Now I get it.
Name: Ivy T
Manhattan, New York (Zone 6b)
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ivyplantsnyc
May 28, 2016 8:20 PM CST
Whew... Thanks for the information. Saving it all.

Ivy
Pause for Paws.
Name: Carol
Santa Ana,Ca. (Zone 10b)
Sunset zone 22
Charter ATP Member Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Orchids Region: California Plant Identifier
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ctcarol
May 29, 2016 10:43 AM CST
Jim, Thank you for doing this!

Ursula, Thank you for making it a sticky, so it won't get lost.
Name: lindsey
wesley chapel, fl
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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sugarcane
May 29, 2016 1:06 PM CST
I'm going to have to read...and reread this about 15 times so it will 'stick'
lindsey
Name: Jim Hawk
Odessa, Florida (Zone 9b)
Charter ATP Member Hibiscus Birds Bromeliad Greenhouse Master Gardener: Florida
Garden Photography Region: United States of America Roses Tropicals Region: Florida Orchids
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hawkarica
May 29, 2016 1:20 PM CST
I am back and was reading over yesterday’s post. There are a couple of things I would like to add. First, if two species orchids are crossed, the result is called a primary hybrid. For example, Cattleya Pacavia is the result of (Cattleya purpurata x Cattleya tenebrosa) and it is called a primary hybrid. An orchid made up of two hybrids or a hybrid and a species is referred to as a complex hybrid. Secondly, we don’t do this on our orchid forum here, but to be technically correct, all genus names and species names should be italicized. Grex names are not italicized.

OK, I feel better about yesterday’s post so it is on to the third term in your orchid name, if there is one. Individual species and grex orchids that exhibit exceptional qualities may be given a cultivar (sometimes called a clonal) name. The main reason a breeder would register such a name is because he feels the plant has award potential. The cultivar name is always in single quotes and is always capitalized. The only way another plant can receive the same cultivar name is if it was propagated through division or mericloning and therefore has the same DNA. Here is a good example: Aliceara Pacific Nova 'Butter Buds'. Just looking at this name, you can tell the genus is named after someone named Alice and the “ara” means it is a hybrid of at least four different genera. The caps on Pacific Nova mean it is a grex orchid and the added cultivar name means it is special and they are probably trying to get it awarded. It is amazing what you can learn from a name tag.

Now I need to say something about awards because they can be permanently attached to the orchid name. The American Orchid Society has about ten types of awards that can be attached to a name. Here is the AOS website that lists these awards: http://www.aos.org/orchid-awards-judging/aos-awards.aspx . The orchid must have a clonal name to receive such an award because the award is for a specific plant, not all the plants with the same species or grex name. If you have a plant that shows the award in the name, then you have either a division or a mericlone of that award winning plant. For example, I have a Bc. Maikai 'Louise' AM/AOS. Just from this name tag I can tell that this orchid is an intergeneric hybrid in the Cattleya alliance with a grex name of Maikai. An outstanding individual plant was given a clonal name of ‘Louise’ and entered into a show where it won an Award of Merit from the American Orchid Society. My plant is either a division or a mericlone of that award winning plant.

That’s about it until I think of something else. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

Jim

[Last edited by hawkarica - Aug 28, 2016 4:51 PM (+)]
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Name: Ruud
The Netherlands
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RuuddeBlock
May 29, 2016 1:22 PM CST
@Jim,

About the x in the name. You state the x is only used for natural hybrids. I always understood it only states that it is a hybrid. For example Dendrobium kingianum x D. tarberi. Now this one has been given a separate name (delicatum) so this becomes, when it is a natural hybrid Dendrobium x delicatum, or when you or I would have crossed it: Dendrobium x Delicatum with a capital to show its not a spontaneous trick of nature.
For the fun of it: Dendrobium delicatum (so without the x, no capital) would say it is a botanic species, and Dendrobium Delicatum (no x, with capital) would be a specific clone.

(I am no name specialist so i could be completely wrong, it's just how I understood it)

Ruud
Name: Jim Hawk
Odessa, Florida (Zone 9b)
Charter ATP Member Hibiscus Birds Bromeliad Greenhouse Master Gardener: Florida
Garden Photography Region: United States of America Roses Tropicals Region: Florida Orchids
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hawkarica
May 29, 2016 2:17 PM CST
Dendrobium Delicatum is incorrect and not listed in OrchidWiz. The same is true for Dendrobium x Delicatum. Dendrobium delicatum is listed but the preferred name is Dendrobium x delicatum which means it is a naturally occurring hybrid and treated as a species. As far as the cross you refer to, Den. tarberi has been changed to Den. speciosum. When I run the search for that cross I get: Dendrobium Specio-kingianum (Dendrobium kingianum x Dendrobium speciosum). I am not finding any conflect with what I wrote.

Jim
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
May 29, 2016 7:51 PM CST
Ok, I got one for you Jim - my about-to-open Catt is (I hope) C. gaskelliana X coerulea2. As hand-written on the tag from Rafael's so it's most likely one of their own crosses.

This would mean it is a cross of two species, right? C. gaskelliana and C. coerulea but what's with the 2 ? Is there more than one species called coerulea? I know it means blue so guess that's a possibility. Or maybe Rafael had several plants of C. coerulea and wanted to keep track of which plant was the parent?
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Jim Hawk
Odessa, Florida (Zone 9b)
Charter ATP Member Hibiscus Birds Bromeliad Greenhouse Master Gardener: Florida
Garden Photography Region: United States of America Roses Tropicals Region: Florida Orchids
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hawkarica
May 30, 2016 8:54 AM CST
Interesting you brought this one up and it is not the first time I have spent hours trying to figure out one of Rafael's tags. I think the 2 has more to do with Rafael's book keeping than an orchid name but that is not the main issue here. There is no C. coerulea. There is a C. bicolor f. coerulea and a C. bowringiana f. coerulea and a C. maxima f. coerulea and on and on but no C. coerulea. In fact, there is even a C. gaskelliana f. coerulea. So what he crossed with C. gaskelliana, if anything, is anyone's guess. You'll have to give him a call.

Jim
[Last edited by hawkarica - Jun 6, 2016 5:02 PM (+)]
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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
May 30, 2016 10:10 AM CST
Oh well, I'll ask him next time we go visit his greenhouse. Should be a summer sale at Tropiflora coming up! Yes, it is June 24th/25th.

Meantime it appears I'll have to just call this Catt my Coerulea NOID. Seems like "coerulea" is in a lot of names of blue-ish flowers, I think it means "sky" in Latin or something related to blue anyway. I have Vanda coerulea as well as a couple of crosses with it as a parent.

Which brings up another question - Vanda rothschildiana doesn't sound like a species - it has Rothschild's name in it. But I see on my two plant tags and elsewhere with no capital R although it's a primary hybrid of V. coerulea and something else. What's up with that?
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Jim Hawk
Odessa, Florida (Zone 9b)
Charter ATP Member Hibiscus Birds Bromeliad Greenhouse Master Gardener: Florida
Garden Photography Region: United States of America Roses Tropicals Region: Florida Orchids
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hawkarica
May 30, 2016 10:38 AM CST
Vanda Rothschildiana (Vanda coerulea x Vanda sanderiana) is a primary hybrid, not a species and you are right about the name not sounding like a species. You should change other tags to a capital "R".

If you want a temporary name until you talk with Raphael, I would use C. gaskelliana f. coerulea.

The reason understanding this name terminology is important is that these growers/venders don't. When you buy an orchid, you're pretty well on your own to figure out what it is. The best you can hope for is that the tag will give you a clue as to where to start looking.

Jim

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