Subscribe to our blog to get articles delivered directly to your inbox

Famous Orchid Collectors Throughout History

June 27, 2012

Orchid clubs, societies and special-interest groups abound, with orchid collectors finding kindred spirits and plenty of opportunity for feedback—especially online. But throughout history, orchid collectors worked in a more low-tech environment.

The Most Famous CollectorOrchids have been a favorite among flower collectors

Among the most famous orchid collectors was England’s Carl Roebelen, who discovered the species Phalaenopsis sanderiana (pink moth orchid) on the island of Mindanao around 1885. It was Roebelen’s interest and persistence that made possible the introduction of phalaenopsis orchids and their hybrids, including Just Add Ice Orchids, which we enjoy today.

Roebelen collected 21,000 specimens to take back to his patron, Frederick Sander. But a hurricane swept away the plants. As history recounts, Sander sent Roebelen a telegram that said simply, “Return. Recollect.”

A Collector and Illustrator

Another notable 19th century collector, John Day, began with 50 exotic orchids purchased from a nursery in Hackney, England. From there, Day cultivated a vast collection, which he bred, grew and displayed at the High Cross Orchid House in his home in Tottenham in North London.

By 1862, gardening journals described High Cross’ heating and watering system. Day eventually turned his attention to drawing and painting; he tenaciously illustrated and described the characteristics and care instructions for many species of orchids. England’s Royal Botanic Garden hosts 28,000 pages from Day’s scrapbooks.

Orchid Collectors Today

Today’s orchid collectors don’t use telegrams or scrapbooks to communicate. If Carl Roebelen were alive today, he would find practical advice on Phalaenopsis orchid watering from our website, while John Day may have gone to a Just Add Ice forum to share his knowledge. Take advantage of these same resources as you become an orchid collector, too.