To those who know, it’s obvious. But not all growers appreciate the difference. Loosely speaking, species orchids are native orchids that grow (or grew) wild somewhere in the world. A hybrid is the result of breeding one orchid with a different orchid, be they species or hybrids. The process is usually referred to as hybridising or ‘crossing’.
As an example, ‘crossing’ Cattleya maxima with another species cattleya, C. intermedia, gave the first cattleya hybrid, C. Dominiana (in 1859). Intergeneric hybrids are produced by crossing different genera. For example, crossing Laelia anceps and Cattleya intermedia (both species) gave the intergeneric hybrid Laeliocattleya Interceps, abbreviated Lc. Interceps.
Species orchids are often crossed with another of the same species with the expectation of obtaining improved flowers. Dendrobium kingianum is a good example. Sometimes one flower is pollinated using pollen from another flower on the same plant (called ‘selfing’, and often written ‘X self’). More common is ‘out-crossing’, when the pollen is taken from a flower on a different plant of D. kingianum. The resultant seedlings are NOT hybrids, and are still named D. kingianum.
The definition of species orchids as orchids that grow wild in Nature is not strictly correct, because hybrids also grow wild occasionally. These are ‘natural’ hybrids, that have resulted from cross-pollination of species orchids by ‘wayward’ insects. These natural hybrids have an X in their names. Examples of natural hybrids among our Australian native orchids are Dendrobium Xruppiosum (D. ruppianum X D. speciosum) and Pterostylis Xingens (Ptst. nutans X Ptst. falcata).
When writing the names of species orchids, only the first letter of the genus should have a capital, e.g. Laelia anceps. The name should also be italicised, or if that is not possible, it should be underlined. All words in a hybrid name should begin with a capital letter, e.g. Maclellanara Pagan Love Song ‘Ruby Charles’; only the genus should be italicised or underlined. If everyone did this, we could all tell the difference between species and hybrid orchids.
All species orchids should be entered in the SPECIES ANY GENUS class at monthly meetings and shows. The only exceptions are where there are separate species classes, e.g. Paphiopedilum Species or Australian Native Species.