Glossary of Orchid Terms


aerial roots – (AYR-re-ul ROOTS). Roots that arise above the ground, from either the stem or
the base of the plant.

alliance – (a-LI-enz). A tribe or group of related genera. Among orchids many of these genera
can crossbreed with other genera.

anther – (AN-thur). The portion of the flower that bears pollen.

anther cap – (AN-thur CAP). In orchids, a cap of tissue that covers the clusters of pollen.

AOS – American Orchid Society

back bulb – (BAK BULB). A pseudobulb that has completed its growth cycle and become dormant. It
serves as a storage organ and may bear a dormant bud. Under favorable conditions, this bud may develop
into a new plant if the pseudobulb is severed from the parent.

bract – (BRAKT). A leaf-like organ (actually, a modified leaf) that serves to protect a flower,
bud, or shoot.

cane – (KAYN). A long, narrow pseudobulb, usually having many joints or nodes.

Cattleya – (KAT-lee-ah).
Cattleyas have earned the reputation as the Queen of Orchids and are known to the public as the ultimate
floral corsage. While some naturally occurring cattleya species are offered by growers, the most popular
plants are man-made hybrids.

caudicle – (KAW-dik-ul). A slender stalk-like appendage of the pollinium or pollen mass.

clone – (KLON). Any asexually propagated (by division, cutting or tissue culture) offspring of a
single parent plant. A clone is identical to its parents. Among orchid, such a plant is likely to be a choice

column – (KOL-um). The central organ of the orchid flower, formed by the union of the stamens and

cross – (KROS). The progeny, or offspring, that results from transferring pollen from one plant to
the flower of another.

cultivar – (KUL-ti-var). (in orchids) An individual plant and it vegetative propagations in cultivation;
a horticultural variety.

Cymbidium – (sym-BID-ee-um).
There are two basic types of Cymbidiums: standard and miniature. Generally, the miniatures bear smaller, but
more flowers than the standards and bloom somewhat earlier. Most miniatures bloom from November through March,
while standards bloom from late December through May. Cymbidiums are basically cool-growing orchids, and best
grown outdoors or in cool greenhouses.

deciduous – (di-SID-oo-us). Not evergreen; shedding leaves that are no longer functioning; once a year or
from climatic events.

Dendrobium – (den-DROH-bee-um).
Their flower spikes are commonly used as cut flowers and orchid leis. Phalaenopsis-type are evergreen while
other dendrobiums shed their leaves in fall and winter.

dormancy – (DOR-man-see). A rest period during which no vegetative growth occurs, often following a
growth period and/or the loss of leaves. May require cooler temperatures and less water.

dorsal – (DOR-sul). In orchids, the upper-most sepal of the flower.

epiphyte – (EP-i-fite). A plant which naturally grows upon another plant or other means of support
above the earth’s soil but is not parasitic; deriving it’s needed moisture from the air.

floriferous – (flor-IF-ur-us). Describing a plant the flowers freely.

genus – (JEE-nus), pl genera (JEN-er-a). A subdivision of a family, consisting of one or more species
which show similar characteristics and appear to have a common ancestry.

grex – (GREKS). A flock or group, applied collectively to the offspring of a given cross.

hybrid – (HYE-brid). The offspring resulting from the union of a species or hybrid with another
species or hybrid.

hooded – (HOOD-id). The part of the flower arched over or partially enclosed by another part of the

indigenous – (in-DIJ-en-us). Native to a country or region; not introduced.

inflorescence – (IN-flor-es-ents). The flowering portion of the orchid, in whatever of the various
general arrangements, often called the bloom spike or spike.

intergeneric – (In-ter-jen-NAIR-ik). Between or among two or more genera.

internode – (IN-tur-noed). The portion of the stem, cane or pseudobulb located between two nodes
or joints.

intrageneric – (IN-tra-je-ner-ik). Within a genus.

in vitro – (in-VE-tro). In an artificial environment.

lithophyte – (liTH-o-fyte). Plants which grow on rocks but derive their nourishment from the
atmosphere and from accumulated humus.

keiki – (KI-kee). A plantlet that grows high up on a cane, pseudobulb or flower stem. When it has
developed sufficient roots system, it may be detached and grown separately.

lateral – (LAT-ur-ul). In orchids, the lateral, or side, sepals are the lower pair of sepals.

lithophyte – (LITH-o-fite). A plant that grows on rocks taking nourishment form mosses, litter,
rain and their own dead tissue.

medium – (MEE-dee-um). The potting material or mix of materials being used inside the orchid pot.

mericlone – (MER-i-clon). A plant propagated by tissue culture form meristem tissue.

meristem – (MER-i-stem). Undifferentiated tissue that is capable of developing into specialized
tissue such as toot, leaf or stem. In orchids, a plant produced by culturing meristematic tissue.

Miltonia – (mil-TOH-nee-ah).
The popularity of Miltonias, known as the Pansy Face orchids is spreading, thanks to the modern vigorous and
floriferous hybrids. There is an irresistible charm to the richly colored flowers and care is easy either
in the home or greenhouse. The beautiful, flat flowers are borne on slender arching stems from the bases
of the most recently formed bulbs. Miltonias generally bloom spring and fall, with best results in spring.
They bloom profusely, and while the flowers last up to a month on the plant, their life is short as a cut
flower (except for Brazilian types which last well either way).

multifloral – having more than one flower per inflorescence.

mutation – (mew-TAY-shun). A sudden departure from the parent type, due to a change in a gene or
chromosome; an individual resulting from such a departure.

node – (NOED). A joint or point on a stem at which leaves, flowers or other organs arise or have potential
to arise.

Oncidium – (on-SID-ee-um).
Oncidium are very popular both for ease of growing and long lasting sprays of flowers. They can be grown both
in the home, as well as in a sheltered area in the garden during warmer months and will bloom once a year. All
combinations of Oncidium and related types have been produced through hybridizing and offer a wide range of color
patterns as well as cultural flexibility.

orchid – (Or-kid). Members of the Orchidaceae, a family in the monocotyledons which are a major group
of flowering plants. Presently, the orchid family comprises about 35,000 species and 60,000 registered hybrids.

Paphiopedilum – (paff-ee-oh-PED-ih-lum). The exotic, wax-like, richly colored blooms last for
weeks sometimes months! They are ideal for home growing. Paphiopedilum, also known as Lady Slippers, have no
psuedobulbs but are made up of attractive, glossy green leaves. After leaves are fully formed, the flower stem
rises from the center of the newly developed growth.

pathogen – (PATH-o-jen). A disease producing organism.

pathogenic – (PATH-o-jen-ik). Producing disease.

petal – (PE-tul). One of the inner whorl of organs surrounding the sexual parts of the flower. They are
often colorful and attractive to pollinating insects.

Phalaenopsis – (fah-lay-NOP-sis). Phalaenopsis, commonly referred to as the Moth Orchid, are
considered one of the easiest orchids to grow and bloom in the home. The long lasting sprays of flowers bloom
two to three months or longer. The flowering season varies, and the plant may bloom more than once
during the year.

pseudobulb – (SOO-doh-bulb). A thickened portion of a stem, resembling a bulb but not being a true bulb,
which is an underground modified bud.

raceme – (ray-SEEM). A simple type of flower inflorescence that looks like a long stem with flowers
arising along it.

rhizome – (RI-zoem). A stem that produces roots and above-ground organs such as stems, pseudobulbs and
flowers. In epiphytic orchids it is usually found on the surface; in terrestrial orchids it may be underground.

sepal – (SEE-pul). One of the separate parts of the flower forming the calyx.

sheath – (SHEETH). A tubular structure surrounding some parts of the plant.

species – (SPEE-sheez). A group of plants (or animals) showing intergradation among its individuals and
having in common one or more characteristics which definitely separate it from any other group; a kind of
plant distinct from other plants.

spur – (SPER). A hallow, sac-like or tubular extension of the base of the lip, usually bearing nectar.

stamen – (STA-min). The pollen-producing reproductive organ. Male.

stigma – (STIG-ma). That part of the pistil of a flower which is receptive to pollen.

stipe – (STYPE). The stalk-like support of a pistil, or other small organ such as pollinium.

synsepalum – (sin-SEP-al-um). An organ resulting from the fusion of the two lower sepals of a lady
slipper orchid (Paphiopedilum). It is found below and behind the lip or pouch.

terrestrial – (ter-RES-tri-al). Growing in the ground and supported by soil.

velamen – (vel-LAY-min). The thick corky layer of cells covering the arial roots of epiphytic orchids, the
function of which is to absorb moisture from the atmosphere and attachments to supports.

whorl – (WORL). Three or more leaves, flowers or branches arranged in a circle at one point around
the main stem.