This book is the continuation of an ambitious project of the author, which began in 2009 with the publication of Orchids and Orchidology in Central America: 500 Years of History (Ossenbach,C. 2009. Lankesteriana Vol. 9 (1-2): 1-268). This second part continues the tale of the pioneers and explorers who collected plants in the wild and little-known parts of the world, of the scientists who classified and named the thousands of new species, the growers and experimenters who have literally given orchids to the world. In short, this is the story of all the individuals and institutions whose lives – and often deaths – were related to the use, commerce, study or conservation of this large and magnificent plant family.
However, the actors of our Caribbean history are of quite different character compared to many of those who hunted orchids in Central and South America. The Antilles – with rare exceptions – lack the large, showy orchids – the magnificent Cattleyas and Odontoglossums, the spectacular Masdevallias – of which the prestigious European nurseries could never get enough. They did not waste their time and money sending their collectors to the Caribbean islands. What we will see then is a large number of horticulturists and botanists who visited the islands during the last five centuries, but rarely with material interests. They came with orders from their Governments to shed light on the secrets of nature, find plants of economic use, or that would bring ornament to the King's gardens. This is probably what gives the history of orchids in the Antilles such a special interest. Plumier collected for the Franch Academy and the 'Jardin du Roi', Jacquin for the Schönbrunn Garden of Francis I, and Olof Swartz apparently collected for the sheer joy of learning and transmitting his knowledge to the word. Most of these collectors competed with each other for the fame of being the better botanist, but money and wealth were not the issue of the day.