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Identify an Orchid: Q & A

Question: Is it possible to identify an orchid from a photo? I have a plant that my mother left me when she died 30 years ago, and I have never known its name. — Norman H.

Answer: Plants with lost name tags are a common occurrence in the orchid world. Though the original grower always puts a ‘genera/hybrid/variety’ identification label on each plant in production, it seems that this important information often gets lost along the way.

Over the years, the orchid may be re-potted and split into pieces but the owner doesn’t write a new tag for each division. Before long, there are nameless plants in circulation everywhere.

Some orchids are immediately identifiable by an expert seeing the flowers. Occasionally, the foliage alone yields the name. The vast majority of no names, however, remain as such due to the hundreds of thousands of possible hybrids.

A rank novice can determine the genera of common orchids strictly from the foliage. Cattleyas, dendrobiums, and oncidiums all have tell-tale pseudo-bulb shapes while phalaenopsis and paphiopedilums have uniquely tapered leaves. Even less common types such as cymbidiums, miltonias, and vandas are easy to identify.

The exact hybrid name is much more challenging unless the plant was mass-produced by cloning, in which case the variety might also be known.

Need to identify an orchid?  Check out Ryan’s Free Orchid Care Sheet Cheats when you purchase his book Orchids Made Easy.   Learn more about his free growing orchids email newsletter here.

Warmest wishes from sunny Florida,

Carol :)
The Orchid Care Lady

Carol the Orchid Care Lady

+ Arthur Chadwick Richmond Times Dispatch


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2 Responses to “Identify an Orchid: Q & A”

I just started my first year of college and brought my orchid that was a gift with me. Slowly, it is shriveling up and the leaves are splitting. My roommate’s orchid is doing the same thing!! Can you help?? We have been giving it the water it needs, not too much not too little. 

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