Orchid Brief: Etymologies of Orchid Names

Have you ever wondered how the names of orchid flowers originated? From “Drawings of Florida Orchids” come the etymologies of some of our orchids. 

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Bletia: Don Luis Blet, Spanish herbalist and apothecary of the 18th century

Brassia: William Brass, botanist of the 18th century who collected in West Africa and was a friend of Robert Brown (Scottish botanist who described the cell nucleus)

Calapogon: from Greek kalos for beautiful and pogon for beard, allusion to bearded lip

Campylocentrum: Greek kampylos, crooked, and kentron, spur, the shape of the spur

Cranichis: kranos, helmet, referring to the helmet-like, concave lip

Cyrtopodium: Greek kyrtos, for curved, and podion, diminutive of pous, or foot, allusion to the prominently curved foot of the column

Epidendron: upon tree

Erythrodes: erythros, Greek for red, and edios for appearing

Eulophia: Greek eulophos, beautifully crested, referring to lip

Goodyera: to honor John Goodyer, (1592-1664), English botanist who translated into English “De materia medica” by Dioscorides

Habenaria: from Latin habena for thong or rein, allusion to spur or slender elongated lip of some species

Inoposis: Greek ion, for violet, and opsis, for resemblance

Liparis: from Greek liparos for fat or shining, referring to glossy leaves

Listera: dedicated to Martin Lister, English naturalist (1638-1711)

Maxillaris: from Latin maxilla for jaw, referring to resemblance of column and lip to jaws of an insect

Oncidium: a diminutive of the Greek onkos for swelling, warty excrescences of the lip

Pleurothallis: Greek pleura for rib and thallos, branch, re: short, persistent pedicels along the rachis

Polyrrhiza: from Greek polys, or many, and rhiza, root

Ponthieva: honors Henri de Ponthieu, collector in the Caribbean area who sent plants to Sir Joseph Banks in 1778

Spiranthes: from Greek speria for coil and anthos for flower, the spiral arrangement of flowers

Vanilla: from Spanish vanilla, diminutive of vaina or pod

Zuexine: from Greek zeukis, for joining, in allusion to partial union of the lip and  column

1. Zeuxine stratomatica 2. Liparis 3. Elophia alta 4. Brassia 5. Oncidium 6. Vanilla 7. Epidendron
This article was written by Blanche Ames and Oakes Ames, and originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of the Tropical GardenMinor changes from the print version of this article were introduced to improve readability in a digital format.

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