In the name of orchids, crimes have been committed, fortunes lost, jungles looted, friendships ruined and lives overcome by obsession. Yet few people had even seen an orchid until the 1800s, when a craze for the exotic blooms erupted. Seized by what was called “orchidelirium,” wealthy collectors built greenhouses and sent scientists and scavengers into the wild to bring back specimens.

What makes orchids so alluring? Judy Loeffler, treasurer of the Venice Area Orchid Society and co-chair of the upcoming annual Orchid Show and Sale, can’t provide a definitive answer, but she does predict that you’ll be gripped by orchid fever yourself when you walk into the Venice Community Center on Feb. 2 and 3 and see thousands of breathtaking blooms in brilliant colors and astounding shapes. 

“The next thing you know, you’ll be walking out with some of them,” promises Loeffler, who tends to more than 300 at her Venice home.

The orchid society, which was founded in 1961 and has 347 members, sponsors the annual show, a fund raiser that covers the cost of club activities such as bringing experts from around the country to speak at meetings and planting orchids in public spaces throughout the region. 

“It’s part of our mission to bring back the native orchids of Florida,” Loeffler explains, although she admits many of the hundreds of orchids the club plants soon vanish, victims of human thieves or orchid-eating squirrels.

You’ll see orchids of every type, from common to rare, at the show, including Phalaenopsis orchids, like the one shown on this page.

Get the Fever

The show runs Feb. 2-3. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5, children under 10 free. Venice Community Center, 326 S. Nokomis Ave. To learn more about the Orchid Society, including its monthly meetings and frequent speakers, visit vaos.org.

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