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Trade in edible orchids for salep 

Salep is a flour made of dried orchid tubers, used to make ice cream, hot drinks and other desserts, primarily in Turkey and the Mediterranean.  The trade affects as many as 19 orchid species in seven genera, involves the large-scale unregulated harvest in a number of countries, including Turkey, Iran and Greece.

Trade in wild ornamental plants in biodiversity hotspots

Orchids have long been collected from the wild for horticultural markets, including highly ornamental species as well as rare novelties for specialist collectors. There is ongoing illegal domestic and international trade in wild orchids, including specific documented trades in Central America, Madagascar and Southeast Asia. 

Orchids are traded for a wide range of purposes.  This includes a legal and large-scale commercial trade in greenhouse-grown plants to supply horticultural markets, including in genera such as Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium, and to supply some species for use in medicinal, edible and cosmetics products. However, it also involves large-scale harvest of wild-collected plants--often illegally--for domestic and international trade. 


Orchids are one of the most widely traded  globally, and international trade in orchids is regulated by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), with orchids representing ±75% of all CITES-listed species.​ However, efforts to legally trade plants for scientific and commercial purposes through CITES are often too complicated and expensive.  In addition, in most places, orchid trade is weakly monitored and has not been studied. We have little information on which species are being harvested or grown, and how this impacts their conservation. However, there are conservation concerns associated with the use of wild-collected orchids in a number of contexts.  

Orchid Trade

Trade in edible orchids for chikanda

Chikanda, also known as African Polony, is a food made in Zambia and Tanzania, using peanuts and the edible tubers of terrestrial orchids. However, its popularity drives indiscriminate harvest of millions of plants annually, across several African countries, of the genera Disa, Satyrium, and Habenaria.​

Trade in South Asian orchids for Ayurvedic Medicine 

Ayurvedic Medicine includes a number of orchid derivatives, most of which are collected from the wild. This includes the illegal export of approximately 60 orchid species from Nepal, including species in the genera Gastrodia, Vanda, Coelogyne, Dendrobum, Crepidium.  The trade, however, remains un-researched.

Trade in Dendrobium spp.,  Gastrodia elata and Anoectochilus spp. for Traditional Asian Medicine

Orchids are used in Traditional Asian Medicine for a wide range of uses. Some species are being greenhouse propagated, particularly in China. However, there is evidence of large-scale, illegal, international trade of wild plants from countries such as Lao PDR, Myanmar, China, Nepal and Thailand. While Chinese pharmacopeia targets only certain species (e.g., for shi hu, shennon bencaoing), evidence suggests that a much wider range of species are being harvested and substituted, but this trade remains un-researched.

Trade in orchids for cosmetics

A growing number of orchid derivatives are used in cosmetics, including perfumes and moisturisers. To date, however, we have an incomplete understanding of which species are being used, how plants are being sourced, and whether these have any conservation impacts.   

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