Naming and Renaming Orchids

We have all been indoctrinated to believe that the ‘most important thing’ regarding repotting of an orchid is “don’t forget the label!”.   I repeat this advice to my thirteen year old helper, Jared, regularly.  But I often forget and now I rebel.

Once my friend Ang and I bought some orchids by the side of the road in Cabramatta, a Sydney suburb known as “Little Vietnam”.  There were a few tattered flowers on them that we recognised as ‘Dancing Ladies’; some sort of Oncidium – but there were no labels.  After I repotted mine I decided to call it Cabramatta to commemorate the day and labelled it as such.  Every time I see the label the atmosphere of Little Vietnam came back to me; no other label ever brings me such delight.


Thus I feel empowered to call my orchids whatever I jolly like.

Recently I received a package deal of 25 mixed Dendrobiums chosen by the nursery.  All were duly labelled; not only by name but with photographs of their parents.  There are a few names I don’t like.

One is from a parent whose namesake is a hemorrhagic fever; a deadly disease that has caused much suffering and fatalities, especially in remote Africa.


Another is a common virus that is preventable by vaccination but where such is unavailable, children die from it (e.g. at least 40 children were killed  in a remote northern region of Myanmar in 2016).  I cannot eradicate the diseases but I can stop honouring them with the name of an orchid.  I certainly would not have chosen to buy such an orchid.  Those two will be given more appropriate names when they flower.


Orchids may be the most cross bred plants on earth.  Enthusiasts and nurseries continuously cross this with that to create better colours, better size, better form…they just don’t like leaving species alone.  So an orchid label may contain a virtual family tree that informs us that this orchid belongs to x specie, it’s a cross of parent X (cross of A&B) and parent Y (cross of C&D).

Then comes the time when your orchid multiplies, growing too large and therefore requiring division or sprouting babies with roots attached (called keikis).  You repot the divisions and keikis and suddenly realise that you have to write new labels.  Writing a family tree on a typically tiny label is no joy.  I won’t be doing it unless I am sending it to the Huge Plant Sale to raise money for cancer research.


About Mary Tang

An urban orchardist everyday, a volunteer regularly, a poet sometimes and a blogger since March 2015. I travel when I can. Food is a constant.
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14 Responses to Naming and Renaming Orchids

  1. Harry Miller says:

    Why were the orchids named after diseases (or the diseases named after the orchids) in the first place?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. arlingwoman says:

    I like this methodology. It occurs to me that Ebola, which is, I think one of the Marburg viruses, was probably named after the orchid…Have a look at the blossom. I think it would be wise to disassociate on the label. I also like the idea of naming them after neighborhoods.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. taphian says:

    That was really very interesting, dear Mary, and funny, too , how you rename the orchids. Hope you’re fine, have a nice day, regards Mitza

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A very sound philosophy, Mary

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t know that about the ‘keikis’ — it’s Hawaiian for child; this at least is apt nomenclature!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Notes From the Spider Farm says:

    I love the renaming of the orchids…

    Liked by 1 person

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