How the Cymbidium Industry Came to Santa Barbara

The next Santa Barbara International Orchid Show will recall how World War II turned the area into an orchid haven. England was the world’s leading Cymbidium grower before World War II. During the war, the UK’s valuable plants were threatened by aerial bombings and fuel shortages. To help save them, orchid enthusiasts in California purchased and imported many English Cymbidium collections. They thrived in the mild climate and relative safety of Santa Barbara. After the war, those rescued British plants became parents of American hybrids, which helped spur growth of Santa Barbara’s orchid industries.  “It turns out that as an unintended consequence of World War II, the center of the orchid world shifted to America.” Santa Barbara now grows more orchids than any other region in the USA, and is renowned for Cymbidiums. It’s home to numerous companies like the Santa Barbara Orchid Estate. Next March, the 70th Santa Barbara International Orchid Show will salute this lucky break for Southern California.

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