Understanding Orchid Names

Understanding the parts of an orchid’s name provides quite a bit of information about the plant and how to grow it well. Let’s use the following name as an example:


The first part of the name is the name indicates the genus. There are nearly 600 genera (plural of genus) of orchids. Each genus has different cultural requirements. Often times the genus is abbreviated. In our example, “Phal.” is the abbreviation for Phaleanopsis.

The second part of the name is the species or “grex.” Species are naturally occurring and represented by a Latin name written in lower case. “Grex” refers to a man-made hybrid. It is capitalized and not in Latin. In our example, “Dawn Treader” is the grex, indicating that this plant is a man-made hybrid.

The third part of the name is the cultivar (or clonal) name. It indicates that the plant is somehow superior. If an orchid was propagated by division or mericloning, it has the exact DNA of the original plant and therefore, retains the cultivar name. The cultivar name is always capitalized and appears in single quotes. Note that not all orchid names include a cultivar name. ‘Echo Valley’ is the cultivar in our example.

The fourth part of the name signifies the plant has earned an award. In our example, “AM/AOS” stands for Award of Merit from American Orchid Society. AOS awards are based on the number of points on a 100-point scale given to a plant by trained AOS judges. Of the AOS awards that can be attached to an orchid name, the most common ones are FCC (First Class Certificate, 90 points of more), AM (Award of Merit, 80-89 points) and HCC (Highly Commanded Certificate, 75-79 points).