When Tagging NOID Orchids Use ‘cf’ Plant Naming Tip

In Orchids
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This might piss a few people off…and oh well—welcome to the conflicted world of horticulture where the opinions are extreme and the stakes are high (haha). If you’re an orchid enthusiast, you might understand the troubles and frustration of owning a few NOID orchids and not knowing which one is which when they’re not in bloom. Typically people bark, “Once a NOID, always a NOID”…but is that really true? If you have enough information to kind of know what the plant is…why can’t you tag it so that you can track it within your personal collection? It’s really no one’s business what you do with your plants and if you decide to sell it, you can pull the tag, right? But how do you know if the plant was originally a ‘No ID’ orchid? Simple…(this is going to be a shocker) – you write it on the tag!

When tagging a NOID orchid (when we’re guessing at an orchid’s name) always add, ‘cf.’ to the name. Example: Aliceara cf. Winter Wonderland ‘White Fairy’. In plant-naming nomenclature, ‘cf’ is short for the Latin word confer, or “compare with” and they often do this with newly-found plants or suspect hybrids. Now you too can use good taxonomy practices (like you’re already doing with alllllll of your other orchids), AND you can benefit from knowing more about that one individual orchid.

With this simple practice you can now identify that one plant from all of your other plants and you might even have access to information like: What does it look like when it’s not in bloom? When will it bloom? How can you make it rebloom? How can you care for it? What temperature range does it like? How much water does it need? All relevant and helpful information when you’re growing a bunch of plants but need to tailor the care for each one.

Tips for naming a NOID orchid:

  1. Do a LOT of research. Lots of plants have hybrids that look similar; so do some legwork and make sure yours looks identical. When researching, I use google, Facebook groups, and other orchid sites. You need to look at everything: flower form, size, shape, colours, patterns, fragrance, etc. You should only tag your plant when you’re pretty sure it’s an exact match. It’s not easy, but you’d be surprised how a little bit of research can go a long way in helping you find a comparable plant and ID.
  2. Clarify you’re guessing the ID. When guessing, just make sure you add that ‘cf’ between the Genus and name of the plant. Examples:
    • Phal cf. bastianii
    • Phal cf. Tzu Chiang Balm
    • Phal cf. Tying-Shin Champion ‘Cinnamon’


Example 1: Miltoniopsis NOID or Miltoniopsis cf. Herralexandre

On the tag I have written, “Miltoniopsis cf. Herralexandre” and it might not be Herralexandre (maybe it has a higher prevelenace of one parent, maybe it’s a complex hybrid that worked out to look the same, who knows). Most importantly though, I’m now able to differentiate this plant from the other 3 “NOID” Miltoniopsis I own. It also helps me understand cultural requirements (or at least have a kick-off point to research) about the care of this specific plant, because there’s a good chance that the parents of this plant are similar to the parents of a Miltoniopsis Herralexandre.

We cannot outright rename the plant though, right? There’s a BIG chance that the parents are not true “Herralexandre” and we’ll never know if it truly is or isn’t.

Example 2: Phalaenopsis NOID or Phalaenopsis cf. Tying-Shin Champion ‘Cinnamon’

As you can see it looks nearly identical to this Dtps. Tying-Shin Champion Cinnamon and because “Dtps.” has been reclassified, the genre needs to be aligned to “Phal cf. Tying-Shin Champion“.

A couple of other pointers when naming untagged noid orchids

As a reminder: you will NEVER know the true name of an unnamed orchid.

“Once a NOID, always a NOID” this still holds true; there are just too many similar hybrids out there and it’s just too complicated to know for sure that yours is DEFINITELY that one plant. That said, you do have consumer demand on your side. Most (if not all) of your big-box retailers are going to sell mericlones of reliable cultivars and hybrids—with the number of plants that these retailers produce, it’s just too risky to go producing hundreds of thousands of unproven hybrids, so they tend to repeatedly sell the same cloned plants (which are often previously awarded).

Don’t Use ‘cf‘ plants for breeding

My buddy Nestor points out that it’s important to emphasize that this is done for our own categorization and knowledge. You should never title these plants as parents when breeding (and likely shouldn’t use them at all if you’re planning on large-scale production). Be mindful that, even if you think you have something IDd you could (and likely are) still wrong. Tread carefully in the territory of naming unnamed plants, but use it for your own benefit.

Practice naming will make…you better?

With experience you’ll get better at identify traits of individual species and what to expect from them. This can also give you a good kick-off point for understanding the care requirements of your orchid as well as potential identifications characteristics within hybrids. For example, Phalaenopsis equestris imparts spotting on the two bottom petals, as well as a higher prevalence for keikis production, and miniature flowers. Similarly, Phal venosa often imparts tones of orange. Phragmipedium kovachii imparts BIG flowers into it’s hybrids. Phragmipedium besseae provides tones of bright red, and coral into it’s offspring.

The act of trying to name a NOID is in some ways a good exercise in becoming a better grower. It forces you to look beyond the plant in front of you and try to understand the relationship it has to other species or plants.

Tips for searching new NOID orchids

Okay, so you bought a new plant. Let’s pretend it’s the yellow one pictured above. It’s time to start the search for a potential ID (and you probably want to do this before the flowers drop, otherwise you’ll forget exactly what it looked like). Begin the search by heading over to Google; search for the visual traits and browse the options in the “images” tab of google.

Example: “Phalaenopsis yellow flowers“; browse the flowers that look similar–the goal is to find an EXACT MATCH.

If you can’t find an exact match, look at comparable flowers and check the parent lineage and compare other potential hybrids of that parent. I warn you, this takes a bit of effort. You can check parent lineage by searching the name of the parent hybrid, or species on the “Blue Nanta” site. Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see the parent lineage (as well as offspring), select one of the parents and dive further by going back to google and search the parent species and include an “x” to denote hybrid.

Example: “Yellow Phal amabilis x”.

Eventually from all of this digging, I can sometimes find a comparable flower and in the case of the above orchid we’ve found, ” Dtps. King Shiang’s Baby ‘Yellow Kitty’ ” as a nearly identical match. I’ll then research Blue Nanta for the name in an effort to confirm that the hybrid is legitimate–which in this case, “King Shiang’s Baby ‘Yellow Kitty'” does not appear to be on BlueNanta so it may not be a registered hybrid. Also, “Dtps” has actually been reclassified to Phalaenopsis so I have tagged it, “Phal. cf. King Shiang’s Baby“.

Don’t worry if you can’t find the name (wait it out)

Sometimes it takes me a while to find a comparable flower. I’ll forget about it and then one day I’ll see it pop up on a Facebook group, or a forum while I’m searching for other things and I’m like, “THAT’S MY FLOWER!”—and I’ll update my orchid tag and spreadsheet.

Rename your cf. NOID if you find a better match

This is for your reference, sometimes you’ll find one that looks similar, but later you’ll find one that looks the exact same. Example: my above Phal cf. Tying-Shin Champion ‘Cinnamon’ used to be tagged as, Phal cf. Tzu Chiang Balm. But always remember to include the ‘cf’ reference.

I hope that helps solve some of your woes with recognizing (and caring for) your NOID orchids. Just remember, at the end of the day, if you’re not breeding and selling your plants, how you label, tag, and track your collection…is entirely your choice.

I’m not the only one
Check out what Astrid has to say on this topic

Orchid rant: A NOID is always a NOID!!!