116. Orchid Cultivation

Habitat loss and illegal orchid harvesting endanger the survival of many wild orchids. This is not a new threat. In the 19th century, the craze for orchids reached a fever pitch, an obsession known as “Orchid Delirium.”

At the time, people thought of the wilderness as limitless. Few realized that an entire species of orchids could be wiped out by a single collecting expedition, or that cutting down forests could have a devastating impact on biodiversity.

Today, scientific exploration for rare orchids seeks to identify and preserve orchid species. But illegal harvesting continues to threaten the survival of wild orchids.

Fortunately, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, works to limit shipments of wild orchids.

The U.S. Botanic Garden’s collection includes nearly 700 orchids received through port and border seizures of illegal shipments under CITES.