Guest Author - Haidy Ear-Dupuy
Orchids for the rich
In the 1700, collecting orchids was done by rich people who hired adventurers to go out and risk their health and sometimes their life to bring back these rare flowers. Large quantities of them were collected from the wild and sent back to England via ships. The long voyage home can kill half the container of plants, thus making them more expensive and sought after than ever.
Those who are brave and seek adventures would contract with wealthy individuals so that he can travel off to exotic places, live dangerous lives and risk all in order to bring back the most unique flowers. Story goes that the Cattleya was discovered by accident, when it was used as packing materials for other plants that were sent to William Cattley, who was researching orchids in England. Cattley took the plant and potted it. The blooming of this plant’s flower in 1818 changed the history of orchids forever. Cattley showed the orchid to the orchids expert John Lindly who then named it after Willam Cattleya. He called it Cattleya labiata. The deep purple of the long and large flowers attracted many orchid hobbists. Orchids became more popular than ever. The fragrance of the Cattleya was another one of its features that attracted collectors.
Orchids for high society
By the 19th century, orchid mania was in full swing. Massive collecting occurred in Asia, Latin America, etc… without much consideration for conservation. Destruction of the forest to look for the flowers and prized orchids can be sold in the hundreds and thousand pounds, with the most expensive sold for around 1,000 British Pounds at the time, which could easily be over 10,000 British Pounds today. Rich men and women with large estates that have green houses collect the plant and show off their orchids’ blooms to each other.
It was not until orchids were hybridized in 1850s that there are more availability of orchids. Today’s massive tissue culture in the lab has made these wonderful flowers available everywhere. Growers can even reintroduce orchids back into the wild to help preserve them in the forests. Due to hybridizing, there are now about 100,000 hybrids of orchids in the world. Plants that were once the hobby of the wealthy and the titled can now be enjoyed by the common many and women. The history of adventures and the mysteries surrounding cultivation of orchids are now in the realm of the common.