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Orchidelirium is the name given to the Victorian era of flower madness when collecting and discovering orchids reached extraordinarily high levels. Wealthy orchid fanatics of the 19th century sent explorers and collectors to almost every part of the world in search of new varieties of orchids.[1] Orchidelirium is seen as similar to Dutch tulip mania. Today there still exists some levels of orchid madness, that has some times resulted in theft of exceptional orchids among collectors such as the Ghost Orchid.[2]


Cultivation of orchids started in England in the 19th century. Orchids were brought to Europe by companies or individuals who had financed collecting expeditions. Commissioned professional collectors would travel for months all over the world in search of rare new species. These expensive expeditions were often shrouded in secrecy and it was not unusual for collectors to spread misleading information about the locations where new orchids were found.[3] New exotic orchids were most often sold at auction in London, fetching extravagant prices. During this time very little was known about the cultivation of orchids and their survival rate was dismal. Through experimentation and by gathering more information on the growing conditions of orchids in their natural habitat, knowledge was slowly being developed and by 1851 B.S. Williams published the first edition of The Orchid Grower’s Manual (London 1871).

Today, the collecting of orchids in the wild is now banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) adopted in 1973. Still some orchids are endangered. Orchid smuggling is thought to contribute to the loss of some species of orchid in the wild.

See alsoEdit

  • Moyobamba, known as the 'City of Orchids', which has some 3,500 species of orchid native to the area
  • Orchid hunters
  • The Orchid Thief, a non-fiction book written by Susan Orlean
  • Adaptation., a movie based on the Susan Orlean book The Orchid Thief
  • Nero Wolfe, a fictional detective and orchidophile
  • Tulip mania, a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which prices for bulbs of the newly introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels


  1. ^ Ronnie Godeanu, Nature assessed Sep 30, 2008 Nature:Obsession with Orchids
  2. ^ Susan Orlean, "The Orchid Thief" 1998 Random House publishing The Orchid Thief
  3. ^ Comprehensive Orchid Culture Guide Orchid History