South Coast Orchid Society

Finding the Correct Name for Your Orchid Plant

Here are some resources that may help you verify orchid plant names. For species, the main problems are usually spelling of the genus and species, taxonomic changes that may have placed the species in a different genus, or changes of the name of the species itself because of lumping, splitting, etc. For hybrids, the typical issues are spelling, punctuation (incorrect use of quotation marks, resulting in confusion about where the hybrid name ends and the cultivar name begins), and especially, finding the correct "genus" for intergeneric hybrids. Also, abbreviations are often incorrect or illegible!


  • Web sites with information about orchid species, with illustrations and references: Best resource by far, IOSPE (Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia, created and maintained by Jay Pfahl. Species descriptions include extensive lists of references, symonyms, illustrations, etc. Occasionally the names do not follow current RHS usage.

  • Web sites with information about orchid hybrids, sometimes with pictures: Orchid Roots, Orchids.org, RHS International Hybrid Orchid Register. You can also purchase OrchidWiz software $$$ for installation on your home computer, in effect, a very detailed encyclopedia of information about individual orchid species and hybrids.

  • Historical descriptions and illustrations of orchid species and hybrids: Digitized versions of most of the old botanical journals and publications, including the original color plates, are scattered all over the internet, and most of them will be found, eventually, through a Google search. The main concentration of these, with significant search capabilities, is found in the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

  • Genus names that are currently "empty" because all the species have been transferred into some other genus: the big example right now is Odontoglossum. After many years of taxonomic splits, the species that remained in Odontoglossum have now, with the complicity of RHS, been swallowed up by Oncidium. At this time, we do not know of a complete list of the genera that are currently considered "empty". As a result, all of the hybrid genera that included Odontoglossum are now invalid as well! You might wonder why we put up with this; if you have a better for how to manage the names of intergeneric orchid hybrids, go for it! Here are SOME of the orchid genera that are currently empty due to the various taxonomic escapades accepted by the RHS: Odontoglossum Cochlioda Neofinetia Ascocentrum Sophronitis Diacrium Sedirea Doritis Kingidium Please contact us if you are aware of any others!

  • RHS list of Intergeneric abbreviations. A different, likely more up-to-date, and searchable list of orchid genera, including the intergeneric names and with their abbreviations, is on Orchids.org (click on Abbreviations column to get alphabetical list of the abbreviations).

  • Finding the correct intergeneric name: First, determine the current correct names of the genera that are involved in the ancestry of the hybrid. Then use the RHS intergeneric name list to find the correct intergeneric name. As time permits, we hope to annotate the list to flag the intergeneric names that are currently invalid because of taxonomic changes.

  • Finding awarded plants: If you are a member of the American Orchid Society, your membership includes Orchid Pro, an on-line tool that you can use to search for species, hybrids, and cultivars that have received AOS awards. Just log in at www.aos.org and look for Orchid Pro in the drop-down list of your membership benefits. Note that Orchid Pro does NOT include awards from other organizations! For the plants awarded under Orchid Digest Corporation standards 1954-1967 at our Long Beach judging center, we have been able to reconstruct a list of about 85% of those awards! For recent AOS awards from the Long Beach judging center, see the web site of the AOS Pacific South Judging Region. All recent awards from this center can also be found in the Orchid Pro software on the AOS web site, see above.