Smithsonian Orchid Collection: Introducing our Species Orchids
The Smithsonian Orchid Collection’s species orchids represent over 30% of all accessions and the collection contains approximately 2500 individual plants and 800 different species, most of which are rarely used for public display. As a contractor for the Smithsonian Orchid Section, I am working to provide accurate and up to date collection information to several different online collection sites, where scientists, researchers, conservationists, and the curious explorer alike can access data about the orchid species that are cared for in the Smithsonian Gardens Suitland Greenhouse complex. Ultimately, our hope is that the assessment of the orchid collection, along with a review of collections management policies and virus protocols, will lead to the submission of an application to join the North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC), an organization comprised of botanic gardens and arboreta across the country dedicated to plant conservation and germplasm preservation.
The most publicly available of these collection sites, which will be actively utilized for the duration of the annual orchid exhibit, is the Encyclopedia of Life. The Encyclopedia of Life is a growing resource for compiled information about all life on Earth. The beauty of the website is that you can search for any species by Latin name or common name and be exposed to a wealth of information about its distribution, habitat, behavior, taxonomy, you name it! Although many less common species are lacking full records, this resource has the potential to connect numerous people and organizations through shared species in collections. The Smithsonian Orchid Section has created a collection for all of their named species orchids and can be found specifically by searching the EOL for SOC Species Orchids. This is an easily accessible list of our collection contents online, and will hopefully be an interesting, if not valuable resource in the near future as more information is added.
This year, for the 2013 orchid exhibit, Orchids of Latin America, each week a watch list will be produced in the Encyclopedia of Life highlighting species orchids from the Smithsonian Orchid Collection that can be found in the exhibit. The watch list link will be tweeted via Smithsonian Gardens on Friday morning right before a brand new delivery of orchids so you have the most up to date reference for the exhibit. Don’t forget, the watch list is just species orchids and there will be many more beautiful hybrids in the exhibit that you won’t want to miss!
-Julie Rotramel, Living Collections Contractor