Orchids have fascinated people since early times. They have been the symbol of love, luxury, and beauty for centuries. Greeks looked at them as a symbol of virility. The Chinese, as long ago as the time of Confucius, called orchids "The plant of the King's Fragrance." In the middle ages orchids played a major role in herbal remedies. They were also regarded as an aphrodisiac and have been one of the main ingredients in certain love potions. When orchids appear in a dream, they supposedly represent a deep inner need and desire to keep gentleness, delicacy, and romance in ones relationship.

By the start of the 18th century orchid collecting was firmly established in many parts of the world. Because of their attractive unusual flowers and intoxicating fragrances. A few orchids were brought back from far off lands by British sea captains in the 18th century. They remained curiosities for a handful of botanists and wealthy amateurs. This all changed, when in 1818, a man by the name of William Cattley bloomed the first Cattleya. The strange thing about this whole event was he had been unpacking plants he had shipped in (not orchids), he noticed these strange plants that had been used as packing material. He potted some of them up and in November, one of the Cattleyas bloomed. The flower world has never been the same, it is still feeling the impact of that single plant.

Entire forests were stripped of millions of orchids. An English botanist wrote in 1878 "Not satisfied with taking 300 or 500 specimens of a fine orchid, they must scour the whole country and leave nothing for miles. This is no longer collecting; this is wanton robbery." Almost all collecting of orchids are now banned. Many are on the "endangered lists." Species are now being cultivated from seed. Orchids have been cultivated in Europe for 250 years.


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