The Philip E. Keenan Award

And why you need to particpate

By David Nixon

Philip Keenan spent a lifetime driving and flying thousands of  miles in pursuit of orchids in their native habitats. He was passionate about sharing his adventures of finding wild orchids with the world and an ardent advocate for preserving their natural habitat. He was a founding member of the North American Native Orchid Society and was actively involved in numerous conservation societies.

He contributed multiple articles and hundreds of photographs to Orchids, as well as publishing two books, one on orchids and the other on his other passion — native birds of North America. To quote from the flyleaf of his book, The Wild Orchids of America, “In describing the world of orchids, Keenan does not confine himself to individual plants but also comments on the wildlife, geology and important natural features associated with orchid habitats.” His book is a chatty account of his field trips in Canada and the United States to document many of our native species, but it also provides inspiration to explore the wealth of orchids and their habitats respectfully.

Why should you be concerned about native orchid conservation? Species orchids are the basis for all orchids that are available to the thousands of orchid growers around the world. Conservation of diverse orchid species and their habitat is paramount if we are to maintain a vibrant genetic pool from which to draw on. Just think of the impact the discovery of Phragmipedium kovachii has had.

In recognition of Keenan’s lifetime of work in the conservation field, a trust fund was established many years ago with the AOS to recognize and reward individuals, groups and Affiliated Societies for outstanding work in the field of orchid conservation. The Conservation Committee has a goal to award this every year to deserving individuals or projects; the committee can, in fact, grant two first-place awards ($500 each) and two runner-up awards ($250 each) each year.

You can do your part by contacting the Conservation Committee at to let them know of any projects, small or large, near or far, that promote orchid conservation or their habitats.  It is hoped that we can feature these projects in regular articles in Orchids to spread the word, as well as letting the people involved in those projects know that they are important and recognized. Please do your part and become involved and be an advocate of conservation projects you are aware of.