The genus Orbea has had a chequered and convoluted history, usage, and interpretation by various authors since the name was originally proposed by Adrian Haworth in 1812. The following account is an attempt to present the background to these various issues in order to suggest what taxa are appropriate for inclusion in it. Two existing subspecies are raised to species rank, Orbea kaokoensis (Bruyns) Plowes, and O. orientalis (Bruyns) Plowes, and one taxon, currently treated as a variety, is recognized as a subspecies, O. verrucosa subsp. fucosa (N.E. Br.) Plowes.