How to Identify Orchid Plants


There are more than 100,000 kinds of orchids. They all belong to the family Orchidaceae. Orchids are classified by how the roots grow, how the foliage grows and the type of flower produced by the plant, although all orchids have some of the same characteristics.

How to Identify Orchids

Step 1

Carefully look at a flower or plant you think might be an orchid. If you cannot remove the flower or plant from premises, take a picture of the face of the flower and the foliage. Also take a picture of how the plant is rooted. For example, is it growing on other vegetation, on rocks, on the ground or under leaves.

Step 2

Identify the orchid by how it is growing. If it is growing on other vegetation it is an Epiphyte. If found growing in the crevice of rocks, then it is probably a Lithophyte. If growing in or on the ground, then the orchid is known as a Terrestrial. There is another type that grows under leaves or underground and it is known as a Saprophyte.

Step 3

Look at the orchid flower to help determine whether it is an orchid and what kind. The easiest way to identify an orchid is by looking at the flower. Every orchid flower has a lip or labellum that is visible in place of a flower petal. The lip is used as an access point for pollinators.

Step 4

Look at the leaves and how they are growing. Orchid leaves are usually grassy or lance-like except for the epiphyte leaf that stores water.

Step 5

Compare your picture of the orchid plant with pictures from references to narrow down the exact type of orchid you are attempting to identify.

Tips and Warnings

  • Some orchids are very rare or endangered and should not be removed from the wild.

Things You'll Need

  • Digital camera
  • Book or reference with pictures of types of orchids
  • Plant that you might think is an orchid


  • Everything Orchids
  • Orchid Glossary
  • Orchid Identification
Keywords: identify an orchid, what does an orchid look like, what is an orchid

About this Author

Based in Rockdale Texas, Jim Gober has been writing garden-related articles for 25 years. His articles appear in several Texas newspapers including The Rockdale Reporter, The Lexington Leader, The Cameron Herald and The Hearne Democrat. He is a Master Gardener and Certified Texas Nursery and Landscape Professional. He holds bachelor degrees in English Writing from St. Edward's University and Finance from Lamar University.