Main site sections:
Plants section links:


  • San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

Species Collection


Plants: Species

Orchid: Cattleya Cattleya


We take the outrageously spectacular Cattleya orchids for granted, since they're used so often in corsages and bouquets. Ironically, their discovery by the Western World was entirely accidental. In the early 1800s, a plant hunter gathered a bunch of rooty looking plants to use as packing material for a shipment of exotic Brazilian plants. When the crate arrived in England, on a whim William Cattley decided to try flowering some of the packing material, just in case anything interesting turned up. By late 1818, Cattley's homely plants had yielded a number of fantastically beautiful flowers that were eventually named for him. The Victorian orchid frenzy had begun and a piece of it still lives on in the San Diego Zoo.

Pictured is a Cattleya dowiana, an endangered orchid native to Costa Rica.