The family Orchidaceae is the largest group of flowering plants known to modern science. It consists of over 25,000 unique species. Orchids are the most fascinating plants in the world. Their blooms vary in size, some so tiny that a magnifying glass is needed to appreciate them, to others over 20 centimetres (eight inches) in diameter. The blooms may be nearly any color and shape imaginable.
Through the efforts of environmentalists worldwide, there are now many creatures and plants that are protected from extinction - insects, fish, mammals, birds, and yes, even orchids are on the list. In the past 200 years, scientists and orchid enthusiasts have explored every nook and cranny of our world from mountainous forests to the tropical jungles in the search for new species of these wondrous plants. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm and demand for orchids resulted in the natural habitats being stripped of every orchid causing many to become either extinct or rare.
It has not been that long ago when you could purchase "jungle collected" plants. Many orchid people thought that the only way to get most of the rare species was through jungle collecting. All that has changed now with new laws created and enforced in many countries. Some nations are now preventing all collection of orchid species from the wild within their borders.
On the surface, the ban against collecting is to be applauded. However, there is a problem with the anti-collection program in many countries. The species are protected but the habitat necessary for their survival is not. As populations increase, greater demands are made on the land. When the land is cleared, the natural habitat of the orchids is also destroyed.
Many of you may know that huge sections of rainforest are cleared for the lumber or adapted for farming every day. Virgin mountainous regions are also being adapted for human use. What is the future of the orchid species in these areas? The loss of habitat also means the loss of orchids, including those species that have yet to be discovered.
This brings up a question that has created much controversy in the world of orchid growers, hybridizers, collectors and scientists. "Should collectors be allowed to 'save' orchids in the areas that are being destroyed?"
If orchids were allowed to be collected, the orchids then could be protected. Many species that otherwise would become extinct would be saved. Ideally, worldwide environmental laws need to be expanded to protect not only the threatened animals and plants, but the necessary habitat needed for their survival. In reality, however, this solution is not currently possible in many parts of the world due to political and economic forces at work in those areas. Collection of orchids from the wild then propagation under artificial conditions is the only viable solution to the ultimate survival of many orchid species.
If you could change things, what would you do? Would you leave the situation as it is, the complete ban on collecting of all orchids, or would you allow the collecting in areas that were being destroyed for farmland and other uses? Thes questions are currently under consideration in many countries. Perhaps the situation will change and the thousands of orchids that are destroyed every day will have the opportunity to survive in a greenhouse.
That greenhouse, some day, may even be yours or your children's.
Do you belive that in certain cases as far as botanical knowledge is concerned the by all practical purposes illiterate Border Patrol or Customs guys then all sorts of trade control bureaucrats are qualified to recognize all of those fourteen thousand-plus orchids even in their minute seedling stages??? Nope!
For example, "just to be on the safe side", those peole who should enforce protection routinely destroy even absolutely legal consignments of for them totally unknown "weeds/veggies". Including not infrequently very rare plants meant for bona fide academic, scientific research work performed in bona fide institutions or rare orchids meant for artificial propgation programs aimed precisely at reducing the eradication of rare wild species by meeting the demand via supplying orchids raised in laboratories to orchid fans .
There's an orchids photo album of several protected orchids at the CITES site or you may see all the orchids shown there plus many more rarities in the photo galleries of my Orchid Nights site designed for Internet Explorer 5 or newer run in full sreen (F 11) mode.