Orchid Identification

By Matt Clarke






There are literally thousands of types of Orchids throughout the world today, largely down to hybridization, however, there are a few more common types that you are more likely to come across.

Phalaenopsis Orchids

Arguably the most common type of Orchid is the Phalaenopsis or “Moth Orchid”. Popular with growers, it is easy to produce, can be forced to bloom for months at a time (particularly when the plant has matured) and thrives in the home, preferring warm, shady conditions.  It is also unusual in that it can be re-potted at any time, although it is best to do this when the plant is not in bloom.

The Moth Orchid is native to Java and South Seas, the Philippines and Queensland, Australia and can be characterised by its round, flat and fleshy leaves which have a deep crease or fold in the centre and that grow from the middle of the plant.

Its inflorescences grow from the body of the plant and can produce anything from two to dozens of flowers depending on its parentage which can vary from white, plainly coloured, mottled, spotted, striped or mixed.

Due to their versatile nature, Phalaenopsis Orchids are also popular for cross breeding, some of the more common hybrids including; Arachnopsis, Beardara, Doritaenopsis, Moirara and Renanthopsis Orchids.

Oncidium Orchids

Oncidium varicosum Orchid

Image via Wikipedia

Another type of Orchid you are likely to come across is the Oncidium or “Dancing Lady” Orchid. From the Tropics of the Americas, this plant requires cooler conditions than most Orchids and likes to be kept evenly moist throughout its growth, if the plant is too dry, you will notice that the leaves that grow on the plant will have an accordion-like look.

Oncidiums are known for their ease of growth and their dazzlingly coloured sprays in yellow, tri-colour and red “sharry baby” which is notable for its chocolate scent. The Oncidium has elongated pseudobulbs and will have one or two leaves at its apex. The flower spikes may also be branched depending on the species.

Again, Dancing Lady Orchids are also popular for cross-breeding, some of the common hybrids include; Bellara, Colmanara, Maclellanara, Odontioda, and Odontonia Orchids.

Dendrobium Orchids

Dendrobiums are one of the largest genus of Orchids with over one thousand species coming from diverse habitats such as the Philippines, Australia, Borneo and New Zealand. They are notable for their elongated pseudobulbs and are tall and imperial in stature with modest sized leaves that will continue to provide sustenance even when they have fallen.

Dendrobiums thrive best in small pots although this occasionally causes a problem due to them being quite top-heavy. This problem can be solved by using a heavy clay pot to plant them in or using bits of old broken brick, gravel etc to weigh it down.

There are numerous hybrids and they come in pinks, purples, yellows, whites, oranges and reds.

Paphiopedlium Orchids

A less common but highly popular Orchid is the Paphiopedlium or “Lady Slipper”. Named after ‘Paphos’ (a city on Cyprus) and ‘Pedlion’ (the ancient Greek word for slipper), Paphiopedliums or ‘Paphs’ are instantly recognisable due their unusual slipper-like labellum which is generally in contrast with the rest of the flower in terms of colour.

They are terrestrial in nature and originate from tropical Asia, preferring to be kept moist at all times due to the fact it does not have a water reservoir.

They are highly collectable and relatively easy to grow, providing you ensure that you meet its humidity requirements and taking care not to over-water.

New growth will come in the form of a fan of new leathery leaves from the base of a previous fan, and these leaves are indicative of their temperature preferences; plain leaved Paphs prefer cool temperatures, whereas mottled leaved plants prefer warmer environments.

Flowers tend to last for several weeks and colours range from soft neutrals to opulent, earthy tones.

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