How Are There So Many Kinds of Orchids?

2 min read

Orchid naming is one of Singapore’s hyped ceremonies, which usually occurs when celebrities or high authorities visit Singapore. They are also bestowed upon some local Singaporeans, and local nurseries offer packages to breed and name a hybrid orchid. These named Orchids are internationally recognized and registered in the Royal Horticultural Society, UK. 

Some of the famously bestowed orchids include Dendrobium Joseph Schooling, Dendrobium Jackie Chan, and Papilionanda William Catherine. But how is it that we can name so many orchids after people? 

First of all, there are about 30,000 species of orchids growing naturally in the world. The famous naming ceremony of orchids occur after a hybridization take place – taking any 2 orchids as ‘parents’ to produce a hybrid orchid ‘child’. Can you imagine the possibilities? Sounds just like us humans! Not only that, orchids are highly adaptive, a characteristic that ensures its species can strive in most environments. This only makes sense since there are more areas and environments where orchids can mingle and reproduce, hence more of their numbers. Other factors include pollination method (wind), and seed production numbers (millions of seeds are produced!), so success and survival are high. 

With so many orchids in the world however, it may be possible to misidentify flora. How do we identify an orchid when we see one? Orchids have 3 consistent characteristics: 

  1. They are symmetrical and can be cut into half in one plane. 
  2. They have both the male and female parts fused into a column
  3. They have a ‘landing site’ for pollinators – a ‘special’ petal called the lip.

The most famous orchid in Singapore, is of course the Vanda Miss Joaquim, named after Miss Agnes Joaquim for first crossing two orchids in Singapore – Vanda hookeriana and Vanda teres. Is that why this name is also used in Singapore’s drag scene? Hmm.. Recently, however, research has revealed that the parents are not in fact Vanda, but Papilionanthe. Hence, Singapore’s national flower is now scientifically known as Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim. Most still know it by its previous name.

If you’d like to check out an extensive list of orchids, you can do so here

What are orchids and what is so special about them? – Wiener Orchideengesellschaft (
Orchids named after Singapore’s first Paralympic and Olympic Gold Medal Recipients – – – News – National Parks Board (NParks)
Orchids Named After Great People (
Orchids A to Z (

Written by Lydia
Illustrated by Lim Daphne


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