The subtribe Caladeniinae is considered polyphyletic, due to the alliance of Lyperanthus with the genera of Drakaeinae and Thelymitrinae.
The scientific name is derived from the Greek words calos (meaning beautiful) and aden (meaning glands), referring to the colourful labellum and the glistening glands at the base of the column that adorn many of the species.
The genus was described by Robert Brown in 1810 from specimens that he sighted in most Australian states, as a member of Matthew Flinder's mapping and exploration visit that circumnavigated Australia. Brown, with assistants, spent just over three years in Australia on botanical research.
The species are small to medium-sized terrestrial orchids. A single, hairy, lanceolate to oblong, basal leaf arises through sympodial growth from underground tubers. The inflorescence is a panicle or raceme with 1 to 8 flowers, showing a fringed or dentate margin. These species have a complex interaction with pollinators, resulting in pseudocopulation.
They are mostly Australian and are from its southern areas. There are four species in New Zealand and another extends to New Caledonia, Indonesia and Malaysia. The south west corner of Western Australia contains the most spectacular and numerous species, varieties and natural hybrids. The huge variation of form and colour of the species leads to a bewildering array and abundance of hybrids. Many are morphologically difficult to separate with some defying separation at present.
Recent taxonomy revisions have, apparently, largely increased the number of species to more than 300 and split the genus into separate groups. For example, Caladenia filamentosa has been split into about 40 different species and subspecies, while a number of subspecies have been upgraded to the status of species (such as Caladenia fragrantissima subsp. orientalis to Caladenia orientalis). This further complicates the issues of identification. For example, Caladena ericksonea is, a naturally occurring hybrid of Caladena doutchiae and the red Caladena filamentosa and also of the hybrid of Caladena cairnsiana and the red Caladena filamentosa.
Whilst colour is an unreliable guide to identification with hybrids, it comes through strongly from one parent or the other for most hybrids whatever the parent species
Caladenia have generally proven difficult to maintain and cultivate artificially with those removed from their habitat rarely surviving more than a few years. The clumping of many of the species could be a result of tuber division or it could be because the seeds fall at the base of their parents and grow there.
The galleries demonstrate the huge variation within colonies and phytogeographic variation over the range north to south and east to west with ever changing climatic and habitat situations over the 150,000 km² of the south west of Western Australia.