History Center Book Group:
The Orchid Thief


FEB. 2020


10:00 AM Social

10:30 AM Discussion



Tampa Bay History Center

801 Water Street

Tampa, FL 33602


Join the History Center Book Group for a review and discussion of Susan Orlean’s 1995 classic, “The Orchid Thief.”

Set in the swamps of South Florida, “The Orchid Thief” wades into the sometimes obsessive world of Orchid collecting, the history of Seminole Indians, Florida environmental politics, and a shady world of plant smugglers. 

From the author:

In 1994, I headed down to Florida to investigate the story of John Laroche, an eccentric plant dealer who had been arrested along with a crew of Seminoles for poaching rare orchids out of the a South Florida swamp. I never imagined that I would end up spending the next two years shadowing Laroche and exploring the odd, passionate world of orchid fanatics. I certainly never imagined that I would willingly hike through the swamps of South Florida — but that’s what writing a book does to you. I found myself as passionate about the project as the orchid fanatics were about their flowers, and that is ultimately what the book is about. I’m proud to report that the book was a New York Times bestseller, a Barnes and Noble Discover book, a Borders New Voices selection, an honoree in the American Library Association and New York Public Library books-of-the-year selections, and the subject of the movie, Adaptation.

About the book

“In Susan Orlean’s mesmerizing true story of beauty and obsession is John Laroche, a renegade plant dealer and sharply handsome guy, in spite of the fact that he is missing his front teeth and has the posture of al dente spaghetti. In 1994, Laroche and three Seminole Indians were arrested with rare orchids they had stolen from a wild swamp in south Florida that is filled with some of the world’s most extraordinary plants and trees. Laroche had planned to clone the orchids and then sell them for a small fortune to impassioned collectors. After he was caught in the act, Laroche set off one of the oddest legal controversies in recent memory, which brought together environmentalists, Native American activists, and devoted orchid collectors. The result is a tale that is strange, compelling, and hilarious.

“New Yorker writer Susan Orlean followed Laroche through swamps and into the eccentric world of Florida’s orchid collectors, a subculture of aristocrats, fanatics, and smugglers whose obsession with plants is all-consuming. Along the way, Orlean learned the history of orchid collecting, discovered an odd pattern of plant crimes in Florida, and spent time with Laroche’s partners, a tribe of Seminole Indians who are still at war with the United States.

For more information, contact the History Center at (813) 228-0097.