Members of the CATTLEY family have, over the centuries, been involved in many occupations and deeds of derring-do. They have been merchants dealing in all sorts of commodities both in England and abroad - mostly in Russia - as well as the usual collection of lawyers, brokers, teachers, clergymen and farmers. Our most famous ancestor was probably William Cattley (1788-1835) who brought what has been commonly called the "Corsage Orchid" - Cattleya labiata - to England.
The flower was introduced to England by accident, when in 1818, William Cattley imported some tropical plants from Brazil. He noticed what looked like a kind of bulb amongst the packing material, and he decided to nurture it in his greenhouse to see if it came to anything. This gorgeous flower - known as "The Queen of Flowers" was the result.
The genus was named Cattleya by the plant taxonomist John Lindley. It came to his notice when, in 1820, after the death of Sir Joseph Banks for whom he had been doing library work, the then 21 year old Lindley was employed by William Cattley to illustrate and catalogue his plant collection.
There are letters between the two at the Archives of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, and Lindley mentions William Cattley in the preface to his Digitalium Monographia (in Latin).
For more about John Lindley and William Cattley click here to visit the Lindley page at the beautiful Royal Horticultural Society web-site.
© Erica Hills 1999/2011