Several months ago I received a bill for an award from the AOS and noticed the genus name had
been changed from Odontocidium to Odontozelenkocidium. As I am the originator of the cross and
since this particular clone had a previous award I felt that changing the genus name would create
If change is mandatory I felt that to be consistent the name should also reflect the fact that a
grandparent in the cross had been changed from Odontoglossum to Cyrtochilum. In correspondence
with the registrar of hybrids he indicated only that the taxonomy of the Oncidium group is presently in
a state of flux. All this despite the fact that Cyrtochilum retusum is now the preferred synonym for
Odontoglossum retusum. What is the rule? Is the AOS going to change names at their whim and
Personal communication with members of the COA has led me to believe that an edict was issued
that generic names shall be changed to reflect the most modern taxonomic opinion, i.e. preferred
synonymy according to the Kew Monocot List. In light of this I reviewed a recent Awards Quarterly,
Vol. 37 No. 1, pages 1 through 30.
I am certain I did not find all of the problems, but here are some examples:
Page 4 – All awards listed here as Ascocendas actually have Euanthe sanderiana in the ancestry as
well as various Vandas.
Page 5 et. seq. – Almost all of the BLC hybrids listed here now contain a Sophronitis since Laelia
milleri and Laelia cinnabarina and others have been moved to Sophronitis. In addition the presence
of Brassavola digbyana in many of these mandates a change to reflect that it is now Rhyncolaelia.
Page 11 – Cattleytonia Why Not should reflect the change of Cattleya aurantiaca to Guarianthe
Page 11 – Catyclia Plicaboa – since the Cattleya parent in this cross is actually now a Guarianthe,
how can it be a Catyclia? Will all, or almost all, that we know as Epicattleyas be changed to Catyclia?
If so why is there an Epicattleya Sally Brown on page 20?
Page 17 & 18 – All of these various Doritaenopsis hybrids are actually just Phalaenopsis. E.
Christenson has changed Doritis pulcherrima back to Phalaenopsis pulcherrima.
Page 21 – Epidendrum Mabel Kanda is actually a cross of Encyclia x Epidendrum. As such it should
Page 21 – Epidendrum parkinsonianum, this species has recently been moved to the genus
Coilostylis by Withner and Harding. Although this in not yet the preferred taxonomic status, it will no
doubt be changed as the arguments presented are logical and clearly presented. See The
Debatable Epidendrums, the latest in Withner’s series on the Cattleya alliance. Note that most of
the Prostheceas defined by Higgins have now been moved to six or seven other genera. These
recent changes in taxonomic status are an example of the frequent changes that will be necessary in
horticultural names if we insist on using the “preferred synonym”.
Page 22 – Epidendrum (Hort. syn. Encyclia) Rioclarense. The horticultural name is Epidendrum. The
botanical name is Encyclia.
Page 22 – Epilaeliocattleya Don Herman, this hybrid has Cattleya aurantiaca now Guarianthe
aurantiaca, and Laelia cinnabarina now Sophronitis cinnabarina, and should be
Page 25 – Laelia Newberry Glow should be Sophrolaelia since Laelia milleri is now Sophronitis
Page 25 – Listings of Laelia purpurata and Laelia tenebrosa give two botanical synonyms. Only one
can be the preferred synonym!
Page 26 & 27 –No doubt many of these Laeliocattleyas actually contain Sophronitis, Rhyncolaelia,
Page 27 & 28 –How many of these Lycaste hybrids also contain Ida in their ancestry?
Dozens of other errors are apparent. One of the most glaring is that Tolumnia is NOT the preferred
generic name for triquetrous oncidiums according to the Kew Monocot Synonymy List.
It is interesting to note that Cattleya aurantiaca has been involved in more than 2,500 hybrids. If we
change the generic names of all these hybrids we will have a horrible mess.
For over 100 years the nomenclatural system has rested on the basis that once a species has been
used in a hybrid the name becomes “fixed” in future horticultural names. Although this system has
not worked perfectly it has achieved relative stability.
Changing to a system where generic names can/will be changed every few years will obviously
create unending instability.
Stability is the most important value in a nomenclatural system.
In order to eliminate potential cataclysmic results brought on by continuous taxonomic changes, I
suggest the following:
List all awards according to their Classic Horticultural Name. This will allow a simple complete
computer search. Put the correct botanical synonym in parentheses following the horticultural name.
If I look up Slc Jewel Box I will find a wealth of information. If I look up Guarisophleya Jewel Box I will
If any system which allows frequent changes of generic names were to be adopted it will require an
updated system of computer searches annually. Who will do this? Who will pay for it? WHY?
There is a very simple and irrefutable reason for not adopting all of these new genera. Each time a
new genus is added to a breeding group, the potential number of man-made hybrids doubles. In
the Epidendrum group of the Cattleya alliance there have been seven/perhaps more new genera
added in the last fifty years. If that alliance had the potential of, let’s say, fifty man-made genera in
1955, it now has the potential of 50 x (2)7 or 50 x 128 = 6,400 man-made genera.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF ANY NOMENCLATURAL SYSTEM IS STABILITY!
THE SECOND MOST IMPORTANT PART OF ANY NOMENCLATURAL SYSTEM IS AN AGREED
UPON SET OF RULES!
If the above concepts are not adhered to we will continue to be forced to put up with the bastardized
gemisch presently being used in the AQ, which must be the laughing stock of the orchid world. It
rather reminds me of the fable of The King’s New Clothes.
This was written in mid July, 2006 using some generic names in vogue (preferred synonyms) at that
time. By the time you read this they may have changed.
John A. Dunkelberger, Jr.
A Rose by any other Name...
An editorial by John Dunkelberger
Paphs are already subdivided into several sub-genera – Parvisepalum,
Brachypetalum, etc. Will these someday become separate genera?
The spade lip Cattleyas will no doubt someday be raised to generic level.
Dendrobiums could easily be divided into four, perhaps five genera.