Canberra Orchid Society

Botanical Lingo

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Until recently, latin was the internationally accepted language for naming and describing plants. 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.

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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