Monday, October 18, 2010


"Lady's Slipper Orchid" (Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin) 

The Victorians coined the phrase Orchidelirium to describe an obsession with collecting orchids that seemed to grip certain people. A number of relatively high profile cases in recent years suggest the condition did not die with the hooped skirt and the handlebar mustache.

  • Dr. Sian Lim was caught at Heathrow Airport in June 2004 with more then 100 endangered orchids. Lim, employed by an English drug company, appears to have collected the plants in Borneo, Indonesia and his native Malaysia.
  • A 41-year-old Fort Lauderdale, Florida resident made his initial appearance today in United States Magistrate's Court in Miami after being charged by a federal grand jury, sitting in Miami, in connection with the illegal importation of more than 1,400 orchid plants from the Republic of the Philippines in February 2005.
  • George Norris, 66, a resident of Spring, Texas, pled guilty in Miami federal District Court in connection with a conspiracy to smuggle into the U.S. protected orchid specimens, including specimens of the genus Phragmipedium, commonly known as Tropical lady's slipper orchids. All species of orchid are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty to which the U.S. and Peru, along with over 160 other nations, are parties. 
Susan Orlean's book The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession centers on south Florida and John Laroche a charismatic schemer once convicted of attempting to take endangered orchids from the Fakahatchee swamp, a state preserve.  Laroche sums up the obsession that drives him and so many others:
I really have to watch myself, especially around plants. Even now, just being here, I still get that collector feeling. You know what I mean. I'll see something and then suddenly I get that feeling. It's like I can't just have something--I have to have it and learn about it and grow it and sell it and master it and have a million of it.

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