AOS History

The availability and cultivation of orchids has changed dramatically since the early years of the twentieth century. Today, in part because of the activities of the AOS, orchids are popular houseplants that are available to anyone. Right on the heels of European “Orchidmania”, orchids were still exotic plants that could only be grown by a few, privileged enough to have the means and knowledge to succeed with these tropical rarities. On April 7, 1921, a group of thirty-five men and one woman met in the Treasurer’s Room of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society to hear a reading of the proposed constitution, bylaws and slate of officers for the newly formed American Orchid Society. The original bylaws sought to allow for importation of orchids, encourage a membership of amateurs as well as professionals, organize orchid exhibitions nationwide, issue orchid related publications and create a system for awarding orchids of superior quality. The goals of the American Orchid Society are still based on those set forth by our founders and have continued to expand and evolve to meet the needs of a changing world.

An organization is only as good as its members and the AOS is deeply indebted to the many talented and dedicated volunteers who have made valuable contributions to one of the most vital horticultural institutions in the world. From the members of the founders meeting in 1921 to today’s AOS trustees and officers, all have offered their time and service out of a love for the plants that bring us together. John Lager, George Baldwin, Thomas Roland, Oakes Ames, Oliver Lines, and the first president, Albert C. Burrage, could not have foreseen the day of mass marketed orchids, yet they no doubt would have been pleased with the popularity that orchids have reached.

Following is a short list of notable points in the history of the American Orchid Society.

  • In 1921, Blanche Ames designs the official seal of the American Orchid Society which is still in use today. It features a Native American admiring two orchids of the Americas - Phragmipedium caudatum and Encyclia tampensis.
  • In 1922 Dr. Lewis C. Knudson invents “Knudson C” orchid flasking medium allowing for aseptic germination of orchid seed providing reliable populations of seedlings.
  • In 1924 Harvard professor Oakes Ames and his wife, Blanche, published a compendium of orchids found and grown in the U.S., An Enumeration of the Orchids of the United States and Canada.
  • “The Great Orchid Exhibition in Boston”, the first AOS orchid show, was held May 8 –11,  1924 at the Horticultural Hall.
  • To meet a need for education about orchids, the AOS published its first periodical in June 1932. Then known as the AOS Bulletin, now Orchids, the Magazine of the American Orchid Society, it has become a full size glossy publication with articles of interest to growers of all skill levels.
  • Recognizing a need for regional representation, in 1946 the AOS charters the Cleveland Orchid Society as its first Affiliated Society. Today there are more than 600 affiliates for which the AOS provides services and benefits.
  • In March 1949 the Committee on Awards is officially created and named and regular judging begins in New York City shortly thereafter. Additional regional judging centers are created in Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu and other cities throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s.
  • In 1949 the AOS established a Scientific Advisory Board to investigate how the society might sponsor research on orchids. At the urging of the board, the Research Committee was formed in 1952. By 1956 the Research Fund had $100,000 the interest from which was used to fund competitive research proposals.
  • The first World Orchid Conference is held in St. Louis in October, 1954.
  • The first AOS conservation committee, the Committee for Endangered Species, is formed in 1965. Early projects included the Big Thicket in Texas, Hoosier Prairie Project in Indiana and Lankester Gardens in Costa Rica.
  • After 60 years at Harvard University in Massachusetts, the AOS moves to the former residence of Lewis and Varina Vaughn in West Palm Beach, Florida in July 1984.
  • In 1996 the AOS launches its first website, OrchidWeb. Co-edited by judywhite and Jim Watson, it proved a stepping stone for the organization’s presence on the WWW.
  • On March 3, 2001 the AOS moved to a facility in Delray Beach, Florida

The American Orchid Society 
is more than just a flower club.  Throughout its history the AOS, in keeping with its vision and mission, has strived to bring our members timely and state-of-the-art orchid information, support basic and applied research in orchids, and monitor and support conservation effort both here in North America as well as throughout the World.


The American Orchid Society will provide leadership in orchids.


The American Orchid Society's mission is to promote and support the passion for orchids through education, conservation, and research.


  • Increase member satisfaction and participation.
  • Extend the knowledge, production, use and appreciation of orchids.
  • Collect and disseminate information.
  • Support education and research.
  • Support the preservation and perpetuation of orchid species.
  • Recognize outstanding achievement.
  • Organize and maintain an orchid judging system.


The Aims of the American Orchid Society are, generally stated, to extend the knowledge, production, use, perpetuation and appreciation of orchids of any kind and in any manner.  These aims include research in all aspects of orchidology; collection and dissemination of information, and the establishment and maintenance of its awards system, the purpose of which is to recognize excellence orchids and the culture and hybridization thereof.