When the Victorian passion for orchids was at its height, enthusiasts
were prepared to pay high prices for particularly rare or fine plants.
Given the profits involved, orchid collectors in the tropics were
often ruthless in pursuit of new or sought-after species. Sometimes
they would send home batches of many thousands of specimens of an
individual species. Often they would fell trees to obtain epiphytes
growing high up in the forest canopy. Some reports also tell of
areas of forest being destroyed to maintain the rarity value of
the orchids that originally grew there.
Today, botanic gardens and reputable orchid growers adopt a different
approach. Fruits are harvested so that the parent plant is unharmed.
Each fruit contains thousands if not millions of seeds, and modern
propagation techniques ensure that they can be germinated and the
plants can be grown on to flowering size quickly. By making large
numbers of artificially propagated plants available, any incentive
to collect wild plants for trade is drastically reduced. Even more
important for local people can be the opportunity to become involved
in orchid propagation themselves, earning a sustainable income from
the natural resources that surround them.
Orchids from the New World tropics >>>