i dont really know, but heres a website with more info (still doesnt answer the question of 'why', though....
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This is a discussion on Color/Taxonomy Question within the General Orchid Culture forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; This is probably a stupid question (or at least unanswerable,) but I'll ask anyway. Why ...
This is probably a stupid question (or at least unanswerable,) but I'll ask anyway. Why are the yellow varieties called aureum or flavum? I mean, why one or the other? For example, there's the aureum variety of Paph. phillipinense, but Phrag. besseae is var. Flavum - so why isn't it besseae var. aureum or vice versa? I did look up the latin meanings, and aureum is 'golden' vs flavum 'yellow' - but really if they are both the yellow variety, why not use the same term?
Hm, no that was helpful, thanks. It seems it is up to the person describing the plant initially. So, that lowii var. aureum (as bright to my eyes as Pete's new besseae var. flavum) could have been described as lowii var. flavum if someone else had described it initially as such. Interesting, in a goofy taxo sort of way!
let me throw this out there: taxonomists are idiots. and the rules they abide by are as well. phillip cribb can send his attack dogs to my apartment and guido braem can whack me over the head with a bar of soap. if you are the first to "validly describe" (whatever that means) a form of a species, you can call it whatever you want. if you wanted to call an orange flower "fma. album", you presumably could do so. and even if you are an orchid-smuggling idiot who feigns ignorance of the rules, however stupid they might be, your name will be immortalized if you manage to get the plant described and the name published in a valid manner (validity of having the specimen does not come into consideration).
you see "variety" used all the time, but the proper term for these color forms is also "forma", abbreviated fma. variety is supposed to be applied to distinct populations of plants with some real difference, not to a sporadic mutation that produces a different color.
I have always said, ignore the wacky taxos and just name your plants whatever you want. After all, they are your plants!
Glad we got *that* cleared up!