How Orchids Became Britain’s Favorite Flower

London’s Daily Telegraph recounts how Moth Orchids became Britain’s favorite flowers. There’s no doubt that the British love orchids. Over 200 years ago, tropical orchids began arriving among the spoils of empire. Britain sent out explorers and collectors to bring back more. Soon rainforests were being stripped of these and other botanical treasures, which filled ships back to Europe.

Initially, growers were unsure how to provide conditions for these “air plants” in their hothouses. Eventually, in 1787, Kew botanists coaxed the tropical Prosthechea cochleata, or cockleshell orchid, to bloom in Britain for the first time. When news spread, every botanical enthusiast was desperate to cultivate the mysterious plants, which thrived high up in the forest canopy, without visible nourishment in some of the most remote and beautiful regions on earth.

From Darwin’s orchid fascination to the founding of the first orchid society in 1897, the British love for orchids has only grown over time. Fortunately, most all of today’s orchid market involves mass production greenhouses and scientific efficiency, not jungle expeditions. “We are now able to pop into our local garden centre or supermarket and pick up a piece of tropical paradise whenever we want.”

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