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Glossary of Orchid terms

Glossary of Orchid terms

Glossary of Orchid terms. 


A glossary is an alphabetical list of concepts, terms and words within a given field of knowledge or science. It is in this sense that we have called this an Orchidist's Glossary. It views the listed words from the viewpoint of an orchidist only, and thus is most meaningful when limited to its field.

We understand how confusing it can be for a beginner orchid grower, with all the different terms and technical words used in the orchid world, here are some of the more commonly used ones that will help!  

aerial root - Any root produced above the growing medium.

alba - lacking in colour pigments, the flower will appear white, yellow or green.

anther cap - The part of the stamen containing the pollen; the end of the column.

aquini - a collation in the petals mimicking that of the lip, also referred to as ‘flared’

axillary bud - Preexisting meristem within the axil of a leaf that is normally inactive in growth.

backbulb - An old pseudobulb behind the part of a sympodial orchid that is actively growing. Although there may be no leaves the presence of undamaged "eyes" is a sign that growth is possible.

bifoliate - Having two leaves.

bud - Common term for a flower before it begins enlarging.

cane - An elongated pseudobulb, usually used when describing Dendrobiums.

Cattleya -  is a genus of orchids from Costa Rica south to Argentina in the orchid family Orchidaceae. The genus is abbreviated C.

Coelogyne - is a genus of over 200 sympodial epiphytes from the family Orchidaceae, distributed across India, China, Indonesia and the Fiji islands, with the main centers in Borneo, Sumatra and the Himalayas.

coerulea - Latin meaning ‘Sky-blue’. Within orchids, since blue flowers are not usually found, coerulea is a blue-purple as opposed to red-purple

column - The fused sexual organ of an orchid flower, found atop the lip.

crock - Small pieces of broken earthenware or flower pots, placed in the bottom of a pot when repotting to aid in drainage.

cross - The progeny that result from transferring pollen from one plant to the flower of another; the act itself.

crown - The central part of the rosette of leaves in a monopodial orchid such as Phalaenopsis, from which new growth arises upward.

cultivar - An individual plant and its vegetative propagations in cultivation; a horticultural variety. Abbreviated to cv.

Cymbidium -  commonly known as boat orchids, is a genus of evergreen flowering plants in the orchid family Orchidaceae. The genus is abbreviated to Cym.

Dendrobium - is a genus of mostly epiphytic and lithophytic orchids in the family Orchidaceae. It is a very large genus, containing more than 1,800 species

diploid - A plant with two sets of chromosomes. The normal condition.

division - Making new plants from old by cutting the rhizome of a sympodial orchid into pieces containing pseudobulbs and rhizome or by cutting off the top half of a stem of a vine-like orchid.

dormancy - A rest period during which no vegetative growth occurs, often following a growth period and/or the loss of leaves or other growths; may require cooler temperatures and less water.

dorsal sepal - In orchids, the uppermost “petal” of a flower.

Epidendrum -  is a large neotropical genus of the orchid family. With more than 1,500 species, some authors describe it as a mega-genus. Abbreviation: Epi.

epiphyte, epiphytic - A plant which naturally grows upon another plant but does not derive any nourishment from it. Many of the orchids in cultivation are epiphytic.

eye - The bud of a sympodial orchid that will eventually develop into a new lead.

flamea - similar to aquini except the colour is flared, a bit like flames.

foliar spray - Many micronutrients and trace elements beneficial to growth are best absorbed through the stomata of an orchid's leaves when mixed with water and sprayed on the plant.

footcandle - A measure of light useful in determining intensity of light for growing orchids; the illumination produced by a candle at a distance of one foot.

former or forma - a taxonomic category for unique phenotypes that occur sporadically in natural populations

genus (pl. genera) - A natural grouping of closely related species.

growths - Any new shoots that emerge, whether they be pseudobulb, rhizome, leaf, stem, inflorescence, or root.

guttation - is the process of secretion of water droplets from the pores of some vascular plants like grass. Guttation is often confused with dew droplets that condense from the atmosphere onto the plant's surface.

habitat - The type of place in which a plant normally grows.

hybrid - The offspring of a cross between species or hybrids.

inflorescence - The flowering portion of a plant.

intergeneric hybrid - A hybrid between members of two or more genera.

keiki - A Hawaiian word referring to a baby plant produced asexually by an orchid plant, usually used when referring to Dendrobiums or Vandaceous orchids.

lead - An immature vegetative growth on a sympodial orchid that will develop into flower-producing structure.

lip - A modified petal of the orchid flower specialized to aid in pollination and different than the other petals.

lithophyte - An orchid that grows on rocks.

medium - The material in which an orchid is container-grown, it may be organic such as fir or pine bark or inorganic such as lava rock.

mericlone - A plant derived from tissue culture that is identical to its parent.

meristem - The actively growing area of the plant from which mature tissues such as leaf, stems, flowers and roots originate.

micropropagation - The use of tissue culture to grow inactive axillary buds into whole plants with very little somaclonal variation, unlike adventitious propagation.

monopodial - Orchids which grow upward from a single stem producing leaves and flowers along that stem.

node - A joint on a stem or pseudobulb from which a leaf or growth originates.

Oncidium - is a genus that contains about 330 species of orchids from the subtribe Oncidiinae of the orchid family. Abbreviated as Onc.

orlata - the flowers lip trim or border is also coloured.

panicle - An inflorescence with a main stem and branches, the flowers on the lower branches open earlier than the upper ones.

Paphiopedilum - often called the Venus slipper, is a genus of the lady slipper orchid subfamily Cypripedioideae of the flowering plant family Orchidaceae. The genus comprises some 80 accepted taxa including several natural hybrids.

Phalaenopsis - also known as moth orchids, is a genus of about seventy species of plants in the family Orchidaceae.

photosynthesis - The process a plant uses to produce carbohydrates and sugar from water and carbon dioxide in the air using chlorophyll-containing cells exposed to light.

polyploid - A plant with more than the normal two sets of chromosomes.

pseudobulb - A thickened portion of the stem of many orchids functioning as a water and food storage device.

raceme - An unbranched inflorescence of stalked flowers.

rhizome - A root-bearing stem of sympodial orchids that progressively sends up leafy shoots.

Sarcochilus -  commonly known as butterfly orchids or fairy bells, is a genus of about twenty species of flowering plants in the orchid family, Orchidaceae. Most species are epiphytes but a few species only grow on rocks or in leaf litter. Abbreviation is Sarco.

scape - An unbranched inflorescence with one flower.

sepal - One of the three outer parts of an orchid flower, one of which is usually topmost and known as the dorsal, the other two lower sepals being known as the laterals.

semi-alba - Similar to ‘alba’ however the colouring pigments exist but are limited to the lip.

sheath - A modified leaf that encloses an emerging inflorescence or leaf.

species - A kind of plant that is distinct from other plants. Abbreviated to ssp.

spike - An unbranched inflorescence of unstalked flowers.

stamen - The male, pollen.

stem propagation - See micropropagation.

stolon - A branch that grows horizontally above the medium and produces roots and shoots at the nodes.

stomata - The breathing pores on the surface of a plant's leaves.

sympodial - Orchids which grow laterally and produce leafy growths along a rhizome.

taxa - A taxonomic group of any rank, such as species, family or class.

terrestrial - Growing on the ground and supported by soil.

tetraploid - A plant with four sets of chromosomes. A normal plant is diploid with two sets of chromosomes. Most modern complex orchids hybrids are tetraploid. Compared to diploids, tetraploids general have larger, fuller and heavier substance flowers.

throat - The inner portion of a tubular orchid lip.

tipo - Latin for the type species. Associated with just one species within the genera, it is the species on which a genus is based and with which the genus name remains associated with during taxonomic revision.

tissue culture - The technique of culturing cells on a sterile synthetic media. There are two general methods use to propagate plants -- micropropagation and adventitious propagation.

transpiration - the exhalation of water vapour through the stomata. Plants lose more than 90% of their water through transpiration.

tripold - the appearance of an additional set of chromosomes from that of diploids. Tripolds are generally regarded as infertile however limited reproduction can occur in plants and flowers.

unifoliate - Having one leaf.

Vanda - is a genus in the orchid family, Orchidaceae. There are about 87 species, and the genus is commonly cultivated for the marketplace. Abbreviated as V.

var. - abbreviation for variety

velamen - The thick sponge-like covering of the roots of epiphytic orchids which helps prevent water loss and aids in absorption.

virus - A type of infectious agent, much smaller than common microorganisms, several forms of which affect certain kinds of orchids.

Zygopetalum - is a genus of the orchid family, consisting of fourteen currently recognized species. Abbreviated to Z.


Source: American Orchid Society Website