We want to make the information on our site as easy to read as possible, using plain English whenever possible. Unfortunately many things can be explained in one word or phrase – often in Latin – that would otherwise take a paragraph and be very repetetive. This Glossary is intended only as a quick explanation of some of the words and phrases you are likely to find on this site. It is not, nor is it intended to be, an exhaustive reference – there are plenty of excellent ones on the web already.

If you think we have made a mistake with a definition please use the email address on our Contact page to tell us.

Having tooth-like protrusions, the protrusions also being toothed.

In horticuture, the name given to each seedling of the same parents in order to distinguish them from one another. All will share their parents\’ genetic background, but there may be differences between them in flower shape or colour, growth habit, etc, just as children of the same human parents may have different colour hair, eyes, or skin tone.

Any plant which grows in or on another plant without damaging it. Many orchids grow in or on trees, their roots attaching themselves to the bark for support, but causing no harm to their host. They should not be confused with parasitic plants, which also use their host as a food source, weakening and often eventually killing it.

Having a fringed edge. This is often seen on the lip of an orchid flower – as in Dendrobium fimbriatum – but can occur on other parts of the flower. In some orchids the entire flower appears to be one big fringe, like Habenaria myriotricha, but the fringing in those cases is more likely to be a highly modified petal structure.

A grex name is a name given to a group of hybrid orchids which are all the offspring of a particular crossing. If you think in terms of a family, the original cross (parent) that was given the grex name may have produced a number seedlings (children – related to each other like brothers and sisters), each of which may then be given its own (clonal) name to distinguish it from its brothers and sisters. The same would apply to offspring of those original seedlings. All would relate back, in some way, to the original crossing.

A plant which grows on or over rocks and stones by working their roots into the mosses and lichens that grow over them.

An orchid which grows upwards from single shoot. The plant produces new leaves on the end of the shoot, so the shoot lengthens. Monopodial orchids are generally epiphytic and often produce arial roots which are used for both anchoring the plant to its host and for gathering food and water, e.g. Vandas.

Folded or pleated, like the folds of a fan. Many orchids have leaves that fit this description.

A fattened growth, resembling a bulb except that it normally grows above the ground, which acts as a storage organ for food or water. Many orchids, particularly epiphytic orchids, produce pseudobulbs from which shoots and leaves grow.

Curved backwards or inwards.

Growing outwards from the original plant. Sympodial orchids produce new shoots or pseudobulbs from the base of older ones and spread out sideways, e.g. Dendrobiums, Cattleyas and Cymbidiums.

Growing in soil.

A method of growing vandaceous orchids in vases. Vases with a wider middle than top, or those with a shoulder, will retain more humidity than those with straight sides. The orchids’ roots are contained within the vase, which is filled with water to soak the roots. Once the roots are green the water is emptied out. Humidity is maintained around the roots without them becoming soggy. Watering may be needed once or more daily in hot weather or a warm room, maybe less in cooler conditions.