History of orchid propagation: a mirror of the history of biotechnology

  • Tim Wing Yam
  • Joseph Arditti
Review Article


Part I Orchid seeds are nearly microscopic in size. Because of that, many fanciful theories were proposed for the origin of orchids. Almost 400 years separate the time when orchid seeds were seen for the first time and the development of a practical asymbiotic method for their germination. The seeds were first observed and drawn during the sixteenth century. Seedlings were first described and illustrated in 1804. The association between orchid and fungi was observed as early as 1824, while the requirement for mycorrhiza for seed germination was established in 1899. An asymbiotic method for orchid seed germination was developed in 1921. After Knudson’s media B and C were formulated, orchids growing and hybridization became widespread. Hybrids which early growers may not have even imagined became possible.

Part II A commonly held view is that Prof. Georges Morel is the sole discoverer of orchid micropropagation and that he was the first to culture an orchid shoot tip in 1960. In fact, the first in vitro orchid propagation was carried out by Dr. Gavino Rotor in 1949. Hans Thomale was the first to culture an orchid shoot tip in 1956. The methods used by Morel to culture his shoot tips were developed by others many years before he adapted them to orchids. This review also traces the history of several techniques, additives, and peculiarities (agitated liquid cultures, coconut water, banana pulp, a patent and what appears to be an empty claim) which are associated with orchid micropropagation. A summary of plant hormone history is also outlined because micropropagation could not have been developed without phytohormones.


Clonal propagation In vitro propagation Mycorrhiza Orchid seeds Propagation Seed germination 


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Copyright information

© Korean Society for Plant Biotechnology and Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Singapore Botanic GardensSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Department of Developmental and Cell BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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