Orchid Glossary

Orchids are one of the most exquisite flowers we find today. While all of them may not be aromatic, they come in attractive hues and forms that may contribute greatly to your plant collection. There are various types of orchids and they are not too difficult to grow either. Below is a lexicon related to orchids to help you understand this group of plants and things related to them better.

Alba
A type of white orchid flower.
AM
This is an abbreviation that stands for Award of Merit. This award is bestowed on the second highest quality orchid flower. Generally, the award is presented by the American Orchid Society to plants that score anything between 79.5 and 89.4. Even the Royal Horticultural Society can bestow this award and it is known as AM/ RHS.
Angraecoid
This term applies to the monopodial orchids, which are members of the African Angraeceum orchids, as well as those closely related to them.
AOS
This abbreviation stands for the American Orchid Society.
Backbulb
This refers to a living old, generally leafless, sympodial pseudo bulb that can be utilized for the purpose of propagation.
Bare-root
It is the technique involved in shipping some orchids, wherein the plant's roots are not potted and without any potting medium.
Bifoliate
It refers to a single pseudo orchid bulb with two leaves.
Binomial nomenclature
This is a Latin term that refers to a "two-name name". In other words, it is a two-word phrase - the botanical method of naming any living thing. In this case, the first word refers to the genus, while the second word is the species name.
Bud
This term is commonly used to describe a flower before it enlarges and opens. However, this term is often used to describe a tiny new leaf or other growth.
Capsule
It refers to an orchid's seedpod, which usually encloses several thousand or even several million seeds.
CBR
This is an abbreviation for Certificate of Botanical Recognition. It refers to an award presented by the American Orchid Society (AOS) to an orchid species only once when it is displayed for the first time in bloom.
CCM
This abbreviation stands for Certificate of Cultural Merit and refers to an American Orchid Society (AOS) award presented to the grower who develops a well-cultivated orchid.
Central growing point
This is the place in a monopodial orchid from where an erect vegetative growth begins.
CHM
This abbreviation stands for Certificate of Horticultural Merit and refers to the award presented by the American Horticultural Society (AOS) to an orchid species that generates exceptional interest among growers.
CITES
CITES or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species denotes an agreement between several nations, which not only lists plant as well as animal species that are believed to be endangered, but also the rules that govern their international trade.
Cleistogamous
This term is used to describe a self-pollinating flower, usually when the flower is not even fully opened. This, however, occurs rarely in the case of orchids.
Clone
A single orchid plant that is originally grown from a single seed and has all the different vegetative appearances, including divisions, meristem propagations and others, it is called a clone. Single quotes are used before and after such plant's names.
Column
The merged sexual organs of any orchid flower, which appears at the top of its lip.
Community pot
This refers to several small seedlings grown in a single container prior to repotting them.
Compot
This is commonly used to describe a "community pot".
Cool temperature
As far as orchids are concerned, the minimum temperature during the night is 45°F, while the temperature during the day may be around 15°F to 30°F.
Cross
The act of propagating a plant by transferring the pollen of one plant to the flower of another plant.
Crown
This refers to the leaf rosette's central part in monopodial orchids like Phalaenopsis, which gives rise to new upright growth.
Cultivar
In the case of orchids, it refers to a particular plant propagated from a single seed. The name of such plants is used within single quotes.
Deciduous
This term denotes plants that shed their leaves or any other growth when they become mature or towards the end of their growing season. These plants have a dormant period after shedding their leaves and regrowth begins in the new season.
Diploid
It refers to plants whose normal chromosomes come in sets of two; they are also called 2N.
Division
This is a propagation technique wherein new plants are grown by cutting old rhizomes of sympodial orchids into smaller pieces with each part containing a pseudo bulb as well as a rhizome. Alternatively, such propagation may also involve cutting the upper half of a vine-like orchid's stem.
Dormancy
This term denotes the rest period of a plant when there is no vegetative growth, usually following a cycle or when the plant loses its leaves or any other growth. During this period the plant may need a relatively cooler temperature as well as less amount of water.
Dorsal sepal
In the case of orchids, this term is used to describe a flower's topmost "petal".
Epiphytic
This term refers to plants growing above ground level and fastening with some other thing for support. Such plants do not derive their nutrients and water from the host, but from the available debris, air and rain.
Equitant
In the case of orchids, this term refers to plants whose entire leaves are arranged flatly on one plane, especially those belonging to the Oncidium type.
FCC
This is the award presented by the American Orchid Society for plants bearing the best quality flower and attaining award points between 89.5 and 100. Even the Royal Horticultural Society can present an FCC award and it is called FCC/RHS. In fact, originally the award was presented by the RHS.
Flask
In botany, this term is used to describe a clear container that is employed for germinating orchid seeds in laboratories for growing other orchid seedlings micro propagated in a laboratory.
Flask-grown
This term denotes an orchid that has been grown employing micro propagation means like stem propagation or mericloning. Therefore, it results in a clone of a particular plant instead of one propagated from a seed.
Floriferous
Term used to illustrate a plant that flowers liberally.
Flower spike
This is a widely used phrase used for any of the several kinds of further accurately termed flower inflorescence, irrespective of bearing a single bloom at the top, a solitary stalk, in panicles or racemes of several flowers.
Foot-candle
This term is used for a quantum of illumination that is helpful to determine the light intensity for growing orchids. This light is generated by a candle placed at about one foot distance from the plant.
Genera
This is the plural term for genus.
Genus
This term refers to orchid groups classified together owing to their similar characteristics as well as their supposedly common lineage. As of now, there are about 860 orchid genera occurring naturally and another 550 inter-generic genera developed by breeders.
Grex
This expression denotes a group of offspring of any particular plant cross.
Growths
It denotes any emerging shoot, irrespective of it arising from a stem, leaf, rhizome, pseudo bulb, root or inflorescence.
HCC
This is an abbreviation that stands for Highly Commended Certificate. It is an award presented by the American Orchid Society (AOS) to the plants bearing the lowest quality among three flowers and scoring between 74.5 and 79.4 award points.
High light
In the case of orchids, the most intense category of light required, usually more than 3,000 foot-candles. Such intense illumination is generally found in greenhouses, sunrooms, outdoors, under highly intensified discharge simulated lights or in southern windows.
Hybrid
The plant offspring developed from the union of two dissimilar species, which is also called primary hybrid. It also denotes a progeny propagated from a species and a hybrid or two hybrids. When the progeny is developed from the union of two hybrids it is also called a complex hybrid.
Inflorescence
This is the flowering part of an orchid, irrespective of the different general arrangement, for instance, a solitary scape, panicle, or raceme. It is often loosely mentioned as the "spike".
Intergeneric
This term means two or additional genera and generally denotes the hybridization that takes place between them.
Intermediate temperature
As far as hybrids are concerned, it denotes the lowest winter temperature prevailing during the night 55°F, while the daytime temperature may vary between 15°F and 25°F.
JC (Judges' Commendation)
This is an award presented by the American Orchid Society (AOS) for a special plant and/ or the characteristics of its flower.
JOGA
This abbreviation stands for Japanese Orchid Growers' Association. You will often find this term on orchid nametags, as this group also presents awards such as Gold Medal (GM), Silver Medal (SM) or Bronze Medal (BM).
Keiki
This term refers to a plantlet that grows from the cane or flower inflorescence of an orchid.
Labellum
This refers to the third petal of an orchid bloom which is altered into a lip through evolution and generally forms an eye-catching landing platform for pollinators like bees and insects.
Lateral sepal
This phrase is employed to describe the two sepals that are lowermost and expand to the sides in opposition to the uppermost dorsal petal.
Lip
This refers to the orchid labellum.
Lithophytic
It refers to plants that grow on a root - the roots of such plants are fastened to the rock on which it grows. It also denotes a division of epiphytic life.
Low light
In the case of orchids, this term denotes the lowest type light-level requirements, usually anything between 1,200 and 2,000 foot-candles. This intensity of light is generally found just 8 inches below four artificial fluorescent tubes or on a windowsill - a little away from the glass on the most illuminated southern windowsills.
Medium
This term is used for the material or materials used for potting orchids. The medium may be either organic or inorganic material.
Medium light
For growing orchids, the medium intensity of light-level requirement is usually anything between 2,000 and 3,000 foot-candles. This level of light is generally found on every windowsill excepting the northern ones or under artificial lights of high-intensity discharge.
Mericlone
This term refers to the precise duplicate of any original orchid plant created in laboratories through the method of meristem propagation. As the new plant is a particular cultivar, it is always designated by using single quotes before and after its name.
Meristem
Speaking from the technical point, this term is used to describe the vigorously multiplying cell tissue from the tip of the roots as well as the new growth or floral shoot tips. Occasionally, this term also loosely denotes mericlone plant, which is created in the laboratory via meristem propagation of tissues.
Micro-propagation
This term applies to creating new orchids via any of the several laboratory techniques such as sterile seed culture or meristem tissue propagation.
Monopodial
This is one of the two types of vegetative growth of orchids, the other form being sympodial. In the case of monopodial growth the vegetative shoot always grows upward, as in the case of the central rosette of the orchid called Phalaenopsis and also the Vanda orchid, which is more like a vine.
Multifloral
This term refers to inflorescences that comprise two or more flowers.
Natural hybrid
It means a hybrid that takes place in the nature/ wild without any intervention by humans.
Node
This refers to a separate notch or joint on any stem, inflorescence or a pseudo bulb that gives rise to a leaves, roots or even a flowering stalk. Often, this term is employed to describe a position on a Phalaenopsis inflorescence, higher than which you can make a cut to encourage a secondary bloom.
Nomenclature
This is a system of naming something, including plants and animals.
Nonresupinate
This term refers to orchids having flower lips that are positioned topmost compared to the axis of the inflorescence. It is worth noting that most of the orchid blooms are resupinate.
Panicle
This term is used to describe a form of flower inflorescence in which the flowers are arranged loosely on a branched stem and the flowers start opening from the inner or lowest branches, while those at the top open last.
Peloric
In the case of orchids, this term is used to denote an irregular, but usually beautiful (occasionally even bizarre) condition wherein all the three petals of a flower, rather than only one, endeavour to develop the shape as well as the color of the lip.
Petal
In the case of orchids, it refers to one of the three internal sections of the bloom that are placed between the three sepals of the flower. Of the three petals, one transforms itself into a lip via evolution.
Pod
This term denotes the seedpod or capsule of a plant.
Pollinia
This term is used to describe the wax-like pollen grains or clumps that are generally present in anthers of almost all orchid flowers. Often they have a yellow hue and are distinct. They are present below the pollen cap of the fused sexual organ of the flower, which is also known as a column.
Pseudo bulb
It denotes a chubby stem of any sympodial orchid that emerges from a rhizome, which has been evolved in a way that it can store water for the plant. However, as the term implies, it is not a genuine bulb.
Pseudo-bulbless
This refers to a plant that does not have a pseudo bulb.
Raceme
It is a simple form of flower inflorescence that appears as an elongated stem with flowers emerging along it.
Reed-stem
This a particular form of growth in which the stems as well as the pseudo bulbs appear like canes or reeds, especially in Dendrobium and Epidendrum orchids.
Resupinate
As far as orchids are concerned, this term is used to describe plants that have their flower lips placed at the lowermost level compared to the axis of the inflorescence. Most of the orchids are generally resupinate.
Rhizome
In the case of orchids, it denotes a root-bearing stem that has a typical horizontal growth above the potting mix or the substrate. The rhizome gives rise to leafy growths like pseudo bulbs. Occasionally, a rhizome is also referred to as rootstock.
RHS
This abbreviation stands for the Royal Horticultural Society.
Scape
It denotes an uncomplicated flower inflorescence with a flower at its top, as in the case of several Paphiopedilum.
Seed-grown
This term refers to an orchid propagated from seed, generally in a laboratory under sterile condition, instead of growing it by using the meristem cloning technique. Hence, the seed-grown orchid is not only an original plant, but also unique.
Seedling
It denotes a young orchid plant that is yet to bear blooms.
Seedpod
It is the capsule or pod that contains the seeds of a plant. It appears after the flower has matured and withered.
Selfing
This term denotes self-propagation from seeds. In this case, an orchid flower places its own pollen on its stigma for fertilization.
Semi-alba
It is a white hued orchid flower having a colored lip.
Semi-terrestrial
This term refers to orchid plants that grow on the ground in highly slackened and open substrate or close to the ground.
Sepal
An orchid flower comprises three segments and sepal is one of them, usually the topmost and is also called the dorsal. The two other lower sepals are called laterals.
Sib cross, sibling cross
It denotes the technique of an orchid's propagation from its seed, in which the pollen of one orchid flower is positioned on another orchid's stigma. Both these orchids were originally propagated from seeds from the same seedpod and, hence, it can be called a cross pollination among siblings.
Sibling
In the case of orchids, this term refers to an orchid which is related to another as they were developed from seeds from the same seedpod.
Species
It denotes a collection of living things apparently having a common line-up; they are so intimately related that the characteristics of these living things separate them from any other groups of living things belonging to the same genus. A genus comprises one or several similar species.
Specimen
This term denotes an orchid that has been let to grow to a big size as well as bear flowers and not divided. Hence, this term also denotes the species that characterizes a genus.
Spike
This term commonly denotes all flower inflorescences, but, from the technical point of view, it is a branchless flowering stem bearing flowers atop a small stalk or the flowers are without stalks.
Splash petal
This term refers to an orchid bloom that transforms its petals by copying the color of its lip. This is also called a sort of peloric condition.
Stalk
It is the portion of the stem that holds up something else, such as a flower or leaf.
Stamen
It denotes a flower's pollen bearing or male organ.
Stem
The part of a plant that bears the leaves, flowers and sometimes even fruits.
Stem prop
Loosely, this term is used to describe "meristem propagation" or the plant that is created by employing the meristem propagation technique.
Stigma
This term denotes the sticky or gluey part of a flower's pistil that receives the pollens.
Sympodial
An orchid has two forms of growth and this is one of them; the other being monopodial. In sympodial growth, every new growth emerges from the rhizome of an earlier growth. All such growths have the potential to bear inflorescences.
Systemic
This term is employed to depict pesticides and/ or fungicides that are absorbed by the leaves of plants as well as their growths and subsequently work inside the plants.
Terete
This is a particular form of orchid growth in which the stems and/ or the leaves of the plant appear in a rounded cross-section.
Terrestrial
This term refers to orchids that grow on the ground or in any slacked substrate on top of the ground.
Tetraploid
This denotes a generic deviation in which the plant has two times the number of chromosome sets compared to the normal chromosome sets. Often, this leads to vigorously growing large plants as well as flowers.
Throat
This term denoted the inner part of an orchid lip that is tubular in shape.
Tissue culture
This is an artificial method of propagating plants in a laboratory via mericloning. This method is also known as meristemming.
Unifoliate
This term refers to one leaf borne by each growth.
Vandaceous
This term is employed to depict any large monopodial orchid, especially used for describing Vanda orchids and those closely related to this type of orchids.
Variety
This means a sub-division of any species belonging to different plant groups and having a unique form that has been imparted to the progeny.
Vegetative propagation
This is also known as asexual propagation and denotes creating new plants through division, any type of different meristematic methods or by encouraging keiki formation. Precisely speaking, it means any form of propagation, excepting those from seeds.
Velamen
This refers to the broad stratum of water-absorbing, cork-like cells that surround the roots of all epiphytic orchids.
Warm temperature
In the case of orchids, the minimum temperature during the winter nights should be 60°F, while the temperature during the day may vary between 15°F and 25°F. When the minimum night temperature is 65°F and the maximum temperature during day is in the 90s, it is said to be very warm for orchids.
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