Orchids: Interlocking Science and Beauty

January 24, 2015 – April 26, 2015

National Museum of Natural History
10th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC

1st Floor, West Wing, Special Exhibits Gallery Floor Plan

Explore the rich crossroads where orchid botany, horticulture, and technology connect. Featuring orchids from the Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection and the United States Botanic Garden Orchid Collection, the exhibit looks at how new ideas, technologies, and inventions change the way we study, protect, and enjoy orchids. Each new innovation is like a puzzle piece: it fills in gaps in our knowledge and creates a larger and more complex picture of orchids.

At first, Victorian explorers and horticulturists found ways to transport and grow exotic orchids. More recently, we developed labs to grow these flowers on a massive scale (though some labs concentrate on learning about wild orchids). Our relatively recent awareness of the need to protect wild orchids has spurred conservation efforts, both in nature reserves and in labs.

Today, the world of orchids is full of possibilities. High-tech orchid pioneers use technology to genetically engineer new orchids, use DNA to better understand evolutionary relationships and discover previously unknown symbiotic fungi necessary for their culture and preservation. Meanwhile, millions of spectacular plants are created annually through micro-propagation, and 3D imaging technologies reveal startling new facets of these fascinating flowers.