Orchid Glossary

Alba: White form of a flower.

AM: Award of Merit. Second-highest flower-quality award given by the American Orchid Society for plants scoring 79.5-89.4 award points. An AM can also be bestowed by the Royal Horticultural Society (AM/RHS).

Angraecoid: Term used to describe the monopodial orchids that belong to the African Angraeceum orchids and their close relatives.

AOS: American Orchid Society.

Backbulb: An old, often leafless, sympodial pseudo bulb that is still alive and can be used for propagating a new plant.

Bare-root: A method of shipping an orchid with its roots un-potted and bare of potting medium.

Bifoliate: Having two leaves on a single pseudo bulb.

Binomial nomenclature: In Latin, literally a “two-name name,” a two-word phrase that is the scientific way of naming living things, with the first term the genus and the second the species.

Bud: Common term for a flower before it begins enlarging, although it is also applied to a tiny new growth or leaf.

Capsule: The seedpod of an orchid, often containing thousands, even millions, of seeds.

CBR: Certificate of Botanical Recognition. An AOS award given only once to an orchid species when it is first displayed in bloom.

CCM: Certificate of Cultural Merit. An AOS award presented to the grower of a well-cultivated orchid plant.

Central growing point: On a monopodial orchid, this is where the upright vegetative growth will begin.

CHM: Certificate of Horticultural Merit. An AOS award given to a species of outstanding interest to growers.

CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The multinational agreement that lists which plant and animal species are considered endangered and the rules by which their trade is governed.

Cleistogamous: Term used to describe a flower that self-pollinates, often without even opening the flower fully; relatively rare in orchids.

Clone: All the various vegetative manifestations (divisions, meristem propagation’s, and so forth) of a single orchid plant grown originally from a single seed; designated by single quotes around its name.

Column: The fused sexual organ of an orchid flower, found atop the lip.

Community pot: Many tiny seedlings planted together in a single container before they are individually re-potted.

Compot: Common term meaning “community pot.”

Cool temperature: For orchids, a minimum winter nighttime temperature of 45°F, with daytime temperatures 15-30°F higher.

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: In orchids, a specific plant grown from a single seed; designated by single quotes around its name.

Deciduous: The term used to describe the loss of leaves or other growths upon maturity or at the end of a growing season, with regrowth after a dormant rest.

Diploid: Having a normal number of two sets of chromosomes; also known as 2N.

Division: Making new plants from old by cutting the rhizome of a sympodial orchid into pieces containing pseudo bulbs 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.

Epiphytic: Term used to describe any plant that grows above the ground and attaches to something else for support; nutrients are not taken from the supporting host but are derived instead from rain, air, and available debris.

Equitant: In orchids, having all the leaves arranged flat in one plane; specifically refers to a type of Oncidium.

FCC: Highest flower-quality award given by the American Orchid Society for plants scoring 89.5-100 award points. An FCC can also be bestowed by the Royal Horticultural Society (FCC/RHS), which, in fact, originated the award.

Flask: A clear container used for the laboratory germination of orchid seeds or for growing other laboratory micro propagated orchid seedlings.

Flask-grown: Term used to describe an orchid grown via micro propagation techniques such as mericloning or stem propagation, and therefore a clone of some original specific plant, rather than grown from seed.

Floriferous: Term used to describe a plant that flowers freely.

Flower spike: A common term for any of the various types of the more properly termed flower inflorescence, whether bearing a solitary bloom atop a single stalk or in racemes or panicles of many flowers.

Foot-candle: 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.

Genera: Plural of genus.

Genus: A group of orchids that are classified together because of similar traits and an assumed common ancestry; there are some 860 naturally occurring orchid genera and an additional 550 man-made inter-generic ones.

Grex: Term used to refer to the group of progeny of a specific cross.

Growths: Any new shoots that emerge, whether they be pseudo bulb, rhizome, leaf, stern, inflorescence, or root.

HCC: Highly Commended Certificate. Lowest of the three flower-quality awards given by the American Orchid Society, for plants scoring 74.5-79.4 points.

High light: For orchids, the brightest category of light-level needs, generally above 3,000 foot-candles, and typically found only in sun-rooms, in greenhouses, outdoors, in southern windows, or under high-intensity-discharge artificial lights.

Hybrid: The resulting progeny from the union of two different species (known as a primary hybrid), or of a species and a hybrid, or of two hybrids (known as a complex hybrid).

Inflorescence: The flowering portion of the orchid, in whatever of the various general arrangements, such as raceme, panicle, or solitary scape; often loosely referred to as the “spike.”

Inter-generic: Between two or more genera, usually referring to the hybridization that occurs therein.

Intermediate temperature: For orchids, a minimum winter nighttime temperature of 55°F, with daytime temperatures 15-25°F higher.

JC:  (Judges’ Commendation)Award given by the American Orchid Society for special plant and/or flower characteristics.

JOGA: Japanese Orchid Growers Association. Term often found on orchid name-tags, since this group also bestows awards (GM, or Gold Medal; SM, or Silver Metal; BM, or Bronze Metal).

Keiki: A plant-let that develops from an orchid’s flower inflorescence or cane.

Labellum: The third petal of an orchid flower, modified by evolution into a lip often used as an attractive landing platform for pollinators.

Lateral sepal: Term used to refer to the two lowermost sepals that extend to the sides, versus the topmost dorsal sepal.

Lip: The orchid labellum.

Lithophytic: Term used to describe any plant that grows attached to a rock; a subset of epiphytic life.

Low light: For orchids, the lowest category of light-level needs, generally between 1,200 and 2,000 foot-candles, and typically found on any windowsill (a bit back from the glass on brightest southern ones) or 8 inches under four fluorescent artificial tubes.

Medium: The potting material or mix of materials that is being used inside an orchid pot; the medium may be organic or inorganic.

Medium light: For orchids, the middle category of light-level needs, generally between 2,000 and 3,000 foot-candles, and typically found on all windowsills except northern ones, or under high-intensity-discharge artificial lights.

Mericlone: A generally exact copy of an original orchid plant made via the laboratory technique of meristem propagation; since it is a specific cultivar, it is designated by single quotes around its name.

Meristem: Technically, the actively dividing cell tissue taken from root tips and from the tips of new growths or floral shoots; sometimes loosely used to refer to the mericlone plant that is produced from the laboratory propagation of meristem tissue.

Micro-propagation: Making new orchids by any of the laboratory techniques, including meristem tissue propagation and sterile seed culture.

Monopodial: One of the two forms of orchid vegetative growth (the other is sympodial), wherein a single vegetative shoot grows continually upward, such as in the central rosette of Phalaenopsis and the more vine like Vanda orchids.

Multi-floral: Having more than one flower per inflorescence.

Natural hybrid: A hybrid that occurs in the wild without the help of humans.

Node: A distinct joint or notch on an inflorescence, stem, or pseudo bulb from which a flower stem, leaves, or roots can emerge; a term often used to refer to the place on a Phalaenopsis inflorescence above which a cut can be made to induce a secondary bloom.

Nomenclature: A system of naming.

Nonresupinate: In orchids, those plants whose flower lips are positioned uppermost relative to the inflorescence axis; the vast majority of orchid flowers are resupinate.

Panicle: A type of flower inflorescence wherein the flowers are loosely arranged on a branching stem and open from the lowest or inner branches to the top.

Peloric: In orchids, a term used to describe an unusual and often beautiful (sometimes grotesque) condition where all three petals (instead of just one) attempt to fashion themselves into lip colors and/or shapes.

Petal: In orchids, one of the three inner segments of the flower that are positioned between the three sepals; one of the petals is modified into a lip.

Pod: Term used to refer to the seedpod or capsule.

Pollinia: Waxy pollen clumps or grains usually found in the anthers of most orchids; often yellow, distinct, and found under the pollen cap of the column.

Pseudo bulb: The thickened stem of a sympodial orchid arising from a rhizome that has so evolved for water-storage capacity but is not a true bulb.

Pseudo-bulb-less: Containing no pseudo bulbs.

Raceme: A simple type of flower inflorescence that looks like a long stem with flowers arising along it.

Reed-stem: A type of growth wherein stems and pseudo bulbs resemble reeds or canes, particularly in Epidendrum and Dendrobium orchids.

Resupinate: In orchids, those plants whose flower lips are positioned lowermost relative to the inflorescence axis; the vast majority of orchid flowers are resupinate.

Rhizome: In orchids, a root-bearing stem that usually grows horizontally atop the substrate or potting mix, from which leafy growths such as pseudo bulbs are sent up; sometimes called the root-stock.

RHS: Royal Horticultural Society.

Scape: A simple flower inflorescence that is topped by a solitary flower, such as in many Paphiopedilum.

Seed-grown: Term used to describe an orchid grown from seed, usually in sterile laboratory conditions, rather than grown from meristem cloning techniques, and therefore a unique, original plant.

Seedling: An un-bloomed young orchid.

Seedpod: The capsule bearing the seeds of an orchid.

Selfing: Method of seed-propagating an orchid by placing its pollen on its own stigma; also known as self-fertilizing.

Semi-alba: A white flower with a colored lip.

Semi-terrestrial: Term used to refer to orchids that grow near or on the ground in extremely loose, open substrate.

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.

Sib cross, sibling cross: Method of seed propagation of an orchid wherein the pollen of one orchid is placed on the stigma of another orchid that was originally grown in the same seedpod as the first orchid, therefore a cross pollination of siblings.

Sibling: An orchid that is related to another orchid by virtue of having been produced from the same seedpod.

Species: A group of living things that appear to have common ancestry so closely related that their characteristics definitely separate them all from any other group; a further division of a genus.

Specimen: Term usually used to refer to an orchid that has been allowed to grow to great size and floriferousness instead of being divided; also refers to the species that typifies a genus.

Spike: Term often loosely used to refer to all flower inflorescences, but technically an un-branched flower stem with short-stalked or stalk-less flowers.

Splash petal: An orchid flower that modifies its petals by duplicating the coloring found on the lip; a type of peloric condition.

Stalk: A part of the plant that supports something else.

Stamen: The male, pollen-bearing organ of the flower.

Stem: The leaf- and flower-bearing part of the plant.

Stem prop: Loose term for “meristem propagation” or the plant that results from this technique.

Stigma: Sticky area of the pistil of a flower that receives the pollen.

Sympodial: One of the two forms of orchid growth (the other is monopodial), wherein each new growth arises from the rhizome of a previous growth, and each new growth is completely capable of bearing an inflorescence.

Systemic: Term used to describe pesticides or fungicides that are taken up by plant leaves and growths and then work from within the plant.

Terete: Type of orchid growth wherein the stem and/or leaves are circular in cross section.

Terrestrial: In orchids, growing in the ground or in the loose substrate atop the ground.

Tetraploid: Genetic aberration wherein the plant has twice as many chromosome sets as normal, often resulting in very vigorous, large plants and flowers.

Throat: The inner portion of a tubular orchid lip.

Tissue culture: Artificial propagation of plants via laboratory mericloning, also known as meristemming.

Unifoliate: Bearing one leaf per growth.

Vandaceous: Term used to describe any large monopodial orchid, particularly used for Vanda orchids and its closely related orchids.

Variety: A subdivision of a species that groups plants with a distinct form that is passed along to the progeny.

Vegetative propagation: The creation of additional plants through division, encouragement of keiki formation, or any various meristematic techniques, but not via seed.

Velamen: The thick layer of cork-like, water-absorbing cells surrounding the roots of epiphytic orchids.

Warm temperature: For orchids, a minimum winter nighttime temperature of 60°F, with daytime temperatures 15-25°F higher; very warm would be a night minimum of 65°F, with daytime maximum highs in the 90’s.