When people hear about orchids, they think of beautiful, delicate and fragrant flowers. No one ever thinks of the word “danger” when talking about orchids. But did you know that orchids can also be dangerous in some ways?
Have you heard of orchid hunters? If not, then let me tell you who they are and what they do. Orchids are one of the few plants in the world that people become addicted to. When growers start collecting them, it’s very difficult for them to stop. And when this addiction reaches a new height, people start hunting them. Rare species, gardens all over the world, and dangerous rainforest become the growers’ playground. They search and search until they find what they are looking for.
A long time ago, being an orchid hunter wasn’t just for orchid lovers. It was a real profession. During the 18th century this profession reached a new peak. Because of the high demand for orchids, people went in search for these plants in the wild. And back then, the places where orchid hunting took them were very dangerous. In fact, people lost limbs, got eaten by animals, disappeared, and even died because of the danger that came with orchid hunting.
There was a story about a group of people who went to the Philippines in 1901 to search for wild orchids. There were eight of them that started the journey, but only one came back alive. One was said to be eaten by tigers. Another one was said to be burned alive, and the other five just disappeared.
Another story tells of a group of hunters who went to Papua New Guinea. Before their journey finished, their group was captured by the natives. Two of them were even beheaded. Lucky for the other members there was a rescue party sent to save them.
Moreover, since orchid hunting proved to be really profitable back then, the competition between hunters was very stiff. They sabotaged each other’s work just to get ahead of the game.
Of course nowadays, it is not that dangerous. But this doesn’t mean that the life of an orchid hunter isn’t risky. In fact there were a couple of orchid hunters back in 2000 that were captured by guerillas in Panama and were held captive for nine months. Other modern day orchid hunters face the dangers that lurk in any wild forest.
Who would have thought that orchids have such dangerous and tragic stories tied to them? Orchids are so coveted that people have been willing to risk and lose their lives to get them. We need to appreciate the orchids we have so readily available to us and not forget how special they all are.
Do you have any orchid hunting stories to tell? Share them with us and leave a comment below.
Did you see my recent post about yet another danger associated with orchids? Read up on orchid smuggling in Nepal.