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Orchid Anatomy and Terminology

Help for Defining Orchid Terms

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orchid terminology anatomy

While learning about orchids are you coming across strange words like monopodial and sympodial? Then this article is for you. I don’t want there to be any confusion when it comes to orchid care and  hope you find this glossary helpful.

Unlock orchid insider terminology

 

Orchid Anatomy

basic orchid flower anatomy

The orchid has three sepals, one dorsal sepal at the top and two lateral sepals one on each side. Three petals, one on each side and the lower lip, also called the labellum. The column and anther cap are the reproductive area of the flower.

Orchid Terminology

Aerial Roots

Aerial roots - orchid anatomy

Aerial roots grow in the air, as opposed to down in the potting mix. Resist the temptation to trim away aerial roots as they absorb water and assist the orchid in photosynthesis.

How to Understand Those Curious Orchid Roots

Healthy Roots = Healthy Orchids

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Bilateral Symmetry

Have you ever felt like your orchid was looking at you? Perhaps it’s because they look like us–well, sort of. Our faces, and orchid flowers, are both bilaterally symmetrical. This means that if you divide our face, and and orchid’s face, in half, from top to bottom, one side would mirror the other. Most other flowers have radial symmetry, the faces of these flowers can be sliced in any direction and still mirror each other.

bilateral symmetry - orchid anatomy

Doesn’t it almost seem like this orchid can see you?

 

Bud Blast

Bud Blast - orchids

When seemingly healthy buds wither and die without blooming it’s called bud blast. It’s caused by environmental changes like temperature and water fluctuation. The good news is that it’s preventable.

Bud Blast

How to Prevent Orchid Buds from Drying Up Before Blossoming

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Inflorescence

Cattleya - orchid anatomy

The inflorescence includes the whole flower spike or stem where the flowers emerge.

Orchids: Cutting the Spike for More Flowers

A Step-By-Step Guide

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Just For You: Tips to ReBloom Orchids

Discover how to get the MOST flowers

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Keiki

keiki - orchid terminology

Keiki means baby in Hawaiian and refers to a new orchid growing from the mother orchid. When the roots and leaves are a few inches long, they can be separated from the mother plant.

Propagating Orchids: Keikis

How to Get Orchid Babies &/Or More Flowers

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Kokedama

kokedama orchid in bloom

Learn the Japanese Art of Kokedama

Ready to Go Potless?

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Monopodial

monopodial orchid - orchid anatomy

Monopodial orchids such as a Phalaenopsis or a Vanda have a single vertical stem. Leaves grow out of the stem and roots emerge from the base of lower leaves. Flower stalks grow from the base of new leaves.

Growth Patterns of Monopodial and Sympodial Orchids 

Knowing this will help you better water and pot your orchids.

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Sheath

Sheath papery tissue

A sheath is a papery tissue that covers a pseudobulb as on this Cattleya.

 

Sympodial

sympodial orchid - orchid anatomy

Sympodial orchids grow from a horizontal rhizome off of which grow psuedobulbs. Backbulbs refer to older pseudobulbs, while lead bulbs are new pseudobulbs  from which new growth appears. New growth is where new pseudobulbs and flower stalks will form. Although backbulbs may not produce flowers, they still perform an important function for the orchid: water storage.

Growth Patterns of Monopodial and Sympodial Orchids 

Knowing this will help you better water and pot your orchids.

Read
 

Velamen

orchid anatomy - orchid roots

Velamen acts as a sponge, absorbing water and nutrients. It covers orchid roots just behind the green tips and absorbs water and nutrients. The green tips of this Cattleya orchid indicates a healthy, actively growing orchid.

How to Understand Those Curious Orchid Roots

Healthy Roots = Healthy Orchids

Read
 

I’m Here to Help

If you ever come across an unfamiliar word or phrase when learning more about caring for orchids, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or email me at anna@orchidbliss.com. This glossary is a work in progress.

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START HERE to Learn More About Caring for Orchids

Find Out What I Wish I Knew When I First Started Caring for Orchids

YES! THANK YOU!