Orchid Names can literally be "All Greek Mythology" to some.

Have you ever wondered how the Latin names of many things came to be ?  Here is the answer to one particular orchid name:- The Paphiopedilum.   Paphiopedilum orchids are also known as lady slipper orchids, this common name has been handed down through the generations, but where doe it come from?


The Latin title is obviously derived from the Ancient Roman’s own language. As they travelled and conquered many lands they were appreciative of the stories and legends of the people they encountered, in particular the Greeks and their mythological adventures. They were especially enthralled by a Greek Goddess - Aphrodite, whose concept they “borrowed” and renaming her Venus she became a Roman Goddess also.......

Here is where the story begins.............. On the beautiful island of Cyprus, which lies at the Eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea there is a town which is called Paphos, it was close to here that according to Greek Mythology, the Greek God of Wine, Bacchus held his court..

Amongst his entourage he had many beautiful young hand-maidens, and one day a minor god who happened to be called Orchis, (who was the son of a nymph and a satyr) had a little to much of his friends hospitality and was unwise enough to pay more than a passing interest in one of the young maidens present......

Bacchus took exception to the young mans impertinence, and promptly had him chopped into little pieces, which were scattered far and wide, where-ever a piece of the unfortunate Orchis landed, an orchid grew.

Eventually the final portion of the poor young mans masculinity (which to this day bears the Latin medical description of orchis) was thrown into the sea, and from this union with the foaming waves Aphrodite was born, stepping out of the ocean close to the town of Paphos, which derives its own name from Paphinia, which is just another Greek name for Aphrodite.

This now gives us the interesting play on words of “Paphio” for Aphrodite, or if you wish Venus, and “Pedilum” the Latin word meaning foot, which when translated would roughly mean the slipper of Venus, or Venus (lady) slipper orchid. The twist in the tale of this particular story is of course the fact that the lady in question was the daughter of the father of all Orchids, and as such the Paphiopedilum orchid is just one of the 30,000 or so various genera of orchids in the world today.

Now if you happen to be in Cyprus, why not visit the House of Dionysos, which is a Roman Ruin standing just behind the Town of Paphos, here you can see a mosaic, one of tyhe figures in this mosaic is Orchis, the unfortunate minor god who Bacchus took exception to, and if you look in the meadows around here, at the right time of year, you may see some of his daughters.

Categories Latin names, greek mytholodgy, orchids, orchid society, north of england.