Our Roots

The first National Orchid Show was held in 1924, at which gold and silver medals were awarded. Permanent, recorded awards that would follow an outstanding plant’s name were created in 1932, the AOS’s 11th year. The first Judging Handbook was written in 1949, and today there are 27 centers, 35 sites, and 588 judges operating a system that gives approximately 2,500 awards annually.

Also dear to the founders was the concept of a society publication, out of which became The Bulletin, first published in 1932 and now Orchids magazine — the world’s only remaining monthly orchid publication.

Back cover of the October 1996 issue of the AOS Bulletin

Affiliated societies have been important to the AOS from the very beginning. For many years, the presidents of affiliated societies were listed as honorary vice-presidents of the AOS.

Grassroots volunteers are the society’s lifeblood

Here, Darby Township Elementary School students (front, from the left: Autumn Sitvarin, Bryant Peacock, and Francis Sanoe; back, from the left: Logan Fritchey and Bianca Schrader) display the fruits of a collaborative effort between the AOS Education Committee and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society with PHS Junior Flower Shows.

Fall 2019 Members’ Meeting

Phyllis Prestia, Ed.D., Education Committee Chair, addressing the town hall meeting as part of the Fall 2019 Members’ Meeting in Homestead, Florida.

Our Beginnings

Founded by passionate, but thoughtful, rabble-rousers, our first president, Albert C. Burrage, has been described as a "force of nature."

Throughout the 1920s, Burrage and the AOS were at the forefront of a rancorous national debate about how to best control exotic plant pests in the United States.

The best offense is EDUCATION.

AOS's first years were dedicated to building up the membership, staging orchid shows, and promoting orchids by attaching society displays to other flower and exotic plant shows.

In 1924, the AOS staged its first solo orchid exhibition.

The first issue of the AOS Bulletin rolled off the presses in June of 1932.

Oakes Ames, along with his wife Blanche, were awarded the AOS Gold Medal of Achievement in 1924 for their already legion contributions.

June, 1940, Oakes Ames invited the society to establish its headquarters at the Peabody Botanical Museum of Harvard.

Functional headquarters remained there until the fall of 1979, despite incorporation in the state of New York and various mailing addresses in New York.

Fall of 1979, AOS opens its headquarters on the Lewis and Vaurina Vaughn estate in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Spring 2001, AOS opens its headquarters and visitor’s center in Delray Beach, Florida.

Spring 2012, to better focus on deliveries to our membership, the AOS, in partnership with the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens, moves its headquarters to its current location and establishes our long-anticipated library.

Presidents of the AOS

Jay Balchan

Immediate Past President

Cheryl Erins

Current President

Our Plans for the Future...

The American Orchid Society celebrates orchids and the people who grow and study them. Our future is to enhance conservation, research, and education related to orchids and provide the richest experience for our members through our publications, the website, webinars, databases, social media, and the projects we sponsor, and to support AOS-affiliated societies wherever possible.

AOS-Affiliated Societies
Goals include continuing to deliver AOS news to our affiliates through the AOS Corner newsletter, promote a beneficial partnership with the AOS, retain and build solid relationships and share resources throughout the global orchid community, and demonstrate that membership in the AOS is a win-win for affiliated societies and for the AOS.

Audit Committee
The Audit committee’s forward-looking plans include working with staff, third parti es and various committees to improve operational efficiency and member experience. The committee will be working through a list of 10 recommendations from our fi rst ever “operational” audit conducted in 2020 to implement best practices for nonprofit t financial operations and introduce tools to improve customer experience and committee collaboration.

Conservation Committee
The future of AOS conservation is to encourage, support and expand worthwhile activities such as: the protection and maintenance of orchid habitat populations, both in cultivation and in the wild; orchid management programs in nati onal parks/nature preserves worldwide; and grow the Conservati on Endowment Fund for future project support.

Development Committee
Eyes to the Future: the Development Committ ee is tasked with fundraising for the AOS. For the future, create new projects and ideas to engage not only our membership to donate, but outside parties as well.

Editorial Board
Current goals for the future are to encourage more articles on culture, hopefully via the Master Orchidist program, and judging centers to have their members convert interesting presentations or papers into articles suitable for publication. Add major acquired content on pleurothallids/bulbophyllums not published elsewhere. The move into publishing orchid books is proving to be a popular future endeavor that raises the impact of the AOS.

Education Committee
The Education Committee’s focus for the future is to embrace learners of all levels and ages. Programs such as new webinars, additional culture sheets, the incorporation of new technological tools for learning and broadening the use of our new Quick Response Codes are in development. The continuation of educational grants will also support these goals. We are always looking for new ideas. We invite you to join in by emailing: education_ committee@aos.org.

The Finance Committee continually looks to improve our accounting practices and obtain competent investment advisors to better meet the needs of the organization so that members and donors can be assured that their investments in the AOS are helping to move forward our efforts in Education, Conservation, and Research in orchids.

Governance Committee
Update job descriptions for trustees, officers and committees. Revise policy for the awards task force, the donor gifts and information disclosure policies. Minor amendments are required to the Employee Handbook.

Information Technology Committee
In partnership with Membership and Marketing, redesign the AOS website with new content, better organization and increased usability on cell phones; add non-award data to OrchidPro including Christensen’s unpublished orchid encyclopedia and other AOS resources along with non-award photographs. Create a “My Greenhouse” cell phone app to track personal orchid collections.

Judging Committee
Develop a full array of educational resources to support judging education guidelines for students and associates. Modernize aspects of the Handbook concerning how to judge specific genera. Develop and evolve a website section for judging and awards that educates and welcomes the membership, and supports both novice and experienced judges. Create strategies for strengthening and nurturing centers and improving the judging experience.

AOS Library Committee
Extend the usefulness of the library by creating a comprehensive catalog, which may be included in a global database, and oversight of the vast collection. Provide fire and physical security and environmental control to protect the works for generations to come.

Membership and Marketing Committee
The M&M committee is driving digital transformation by investing in digital marketing and growth strategies that support the AOS’s mission, serving our community of members, committees, judges, partners, and staff. Future plans include improving the usability of aos.org and ensuring the AOS remains a relevant, accessible, and authoritative source of information and delivers value for our global orchid ecosystem.

Nominating Committee
The Nominating Committee is principally responsible for succession planning to build a strong, effective Board of Trustees and Executive committee. The Committee vets the candidates for expertise and perspectives that can positively impact our organization. The candidates should reflect the membership diversity, ethnicity, gender, and values of AOS. Qualifying candidates are presented to the Board of Trustees and the general membership for approval.

Research Committee
Establish a continuing partnership with the scientific community: there are now seven members of the AOS Research Committee that are also members of American Society for Horticultural Science’s Orchid Interest Group. By leveraging resources and expertise, this partnership will expand the impact of orchid research for the AOS and to academic research communities.

Awards Task Force
The Awards Task Force solicits, reviews and forwards for Board approval, nominations for personnel awards of distinction, which recognize individual excellence in volunteerism and extraordinary service to the American Orchid Society. Awards are presented at the two annual meeti ngs of members. Immediate goals are to update the awards policy for Board discussion and approval and to prepare nominations for the spring 2022 meeting.