Orchidelirium: The Obsession with Orchids

By | January 18, 2019

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Orchids outside Audubon House & Tropical Gardens. Source: (Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)

The Victorian era, orchids were rare and elusive, but folks were smitten with their exotic beauty. In fact, collecting orchids was an obsession, and flower-crazed collectors sought special blooms from all over the world. When they weren’t hunting for the delicate flowers, they were tending to their collection of living orchids in their private greenhouses. Orchidmania was sweeping the world and led to a condition called “orchidelirium,” in which people became so obsessed with the flowers that they sank thousands of dollars into their orchid collections. For them, orchids represented rarity, beauty, and most likely, were a symbol of status. Let’s look at the flower fad that caused orchidelirium. 

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Source: (aos.org)

What’s So Special About Orchids?

Orchids are delicate, beautiful, and somewhat mysterious. They are challenging to grow in greenhouses. Although there are more than 25,000 species of orchids, not many of them grew wild in England. As Europeans began exploring the world and amateur botany became all the rage, exotic flowers were viewed as treasures, but none more so that the orchid. Like everything that is rare and precious, the orchids became highly-prized and valuable, particularly to the people of Victorian England. To them, the unique flower represented wealth and privilege.