Botanical Lingo

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The internationally accepted language for naming and describing plants is latin. Many latin words, or something very close, have been accepted into the English language so it is often possible to interpret botanical names without any knowledge of latin. The following table provides examples of some latin words used in describing orchids that are frequently encountered.

Latin(English) Meaning
Source: Stearn, William T. (2004) Botanical Latin

Clavatus (Club shaped)

gradually thickening upwards from a very tapering base

Cochlearis (Cochlear)

when one piece, being larger than the others, and hollowed like a helmet or bowl, covers the others

Resupinatus (Resupinate)

inverted in position by a twisting of the stalk. Typically refers to the flowers - Encyclia flowers are non-resupinate as the lip is at the top.

Nutans (Nodding)

inclining very much from the perpendicular, so that the apex is directed downwards

Sessilis (Sessile)

sitting close upon the body that supports it, without any sensible stalk

Fusiform (Spindle shaped)

thick, tapering to each end

Canaliculatus (Channelled)

long and concave, so as to resemble a gutter or channel

Teres (Terete)

the opposite of angular

Filiformis (Thread shaped)

slender, like a thread

Linearis (Linear)

narrow, short, with the two opposite margins parallel

Cucullatis (Hooded)

a plane body, the apex or sides of which are curved inwards, so as to resemble the point of a slipper, or a hood

Fimbriatus (Fringed)

having the margin bordered by long filiform processes thicker than hairs

Giganteus (Gigantic)

tall, but stout and well proportioned

Dorsalis (Dorsal)

fixed upon the back of anything

Lateralis (Lateral)

fixed near or upon the side of anything

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