A Brief History of China’s Wild Cymbidium Trade

The IUCN Orchid Specialist Group reports on the history, cultural importance, and trade of China’s Cymbidiums. Recent studies focus on Sichuan Province in southwest China, one of the world’s botanical hotspots. It’s home to many orchids, including Cymbidiums. They’ve been important in Chinese culture for thousands of years, and ornamental varieties have been cultivated for a millenium. They were once so common in Sichuan that their sweet fragrances filled the mountain air. However, over the last few decades, increased harvesting of wild plants has threatened them with extinction. Fortunately, many buyers are turning to orchids grown in greenhouses rather than wild plants. It is hoped that China’s traditional reverence for Cymbidiums will help save these endangered species.

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