In the Beginning: Orchids
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In 1731 the plant collector Peter Collinson received a dried plant from the Bahamas. He planted it and it grew – this was the first exotic orchid (Bletia verecunda) to flower in Britain.
Another early arrival was Epidendrum cochleatum which crossed the Atlantic in 1786 and was the first tree-living orchid to flower in Britain. The beginning of the 19th century saw the start of the great orchid hunt – plant hunters scoured the tropical world for them and there was an enormous demand for this new status symbol. Prices were high as losses in cultivation were great – only slowly did growers realize that constantly hot and moist conditions were not only unnecessary but positively harmful. The first hybrid appeared in 1856 and for over a century these plants continued to be regarded as beautiful but rather ‘special’. It was only at the end of the 20th century that the moth orchid began to appear in outlets everywhere as just another attractive house plant for everyone!