Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: orc00002

Conrad Loddiges & Sons orchid watercolors

Scope and content

The collection consists of 217 small watercolors of orchids from the Loddiges Nursery in London England. The paintings were created from 1844-1856 and feature orchids that were collected between 1804-1847. The scientific name, number, collection date, collection location, and illustration date are on the back of the mat.


  • 1844-1856

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available by appointment for research. Researchers must register and provide one form of valid photo identification. Please contact for additional information.


1 linear feet (2 boxes) : 217 matted paintings ; Paintings are mostly 14 x 18 cm, mats measures 25 x 30 cm

Historical note

In its prime, Loddiges Nursery was home to the world's largest hothouse, the largest named tree collection, and many innovations in tropical plant cultivation. It was a tourist attraction in London and helped to spark the Victorians' interest in ferns and orchids. Joachim Conrad Loddiges (1738-1826) built the company from a seed shop and small nursery that he acquired in the 1770s in the London borough of Hackney. The grounds were scattered around Mare Street until 1785-1786, when Loddiges acquired two adjacent fields on that street where he could consolidate the nursery. Loddiges's youngest son George (1786-1846) oversaw several additions to the nursery, including an arboretum, improved steam-heated "stove houses," and a tropical rain forest display with a sprinkler system (for which George received a medal from the Royal Horticultural Society). In 1818 the nursery began publishing its own journal, The Botanical Cabinet. Loddiges was known for its singular success raising orchids, particularly epiphytic orchids, which were one of George Loddiges’s special interests. It is thought to have been the first British company to cultivate orchids commercially. In 1839 the nursery put out its first orchid catalog listing more than 1,600 species and varieties. By 1845 the number had increased to 1,916. Two orchids, Acropera loddigesii from Mexico and Cattleya loddigesii from Brazil, are named in tribute to the Loddiges family. The business closed in 1852, after the deaths of George Loddiges and his brother William in 1846 and 1849. The combination of an expiring lease, rising land prices, and growing industrialization and pollution in the area made the move necessary. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew could not afford to buy the Loddiges collections even at a generously reduced price, so some of the stock was sold to the new Crystal Palace Company and the rest was auctioned. Surviving trees from the Loddiges arboretum can now be seen in Abney Park Cemetery.


Solman, David. 1985. Loddiges of Hackney: the largest hothouse in the world. London: Hackney Society.


Orchid illustrations are arranged alphabetically by scientific name.


The provenance of the collection is unknown although it was probably purchased by Oakes Ames.

Conservation note

In 2018, this collection was conserved by Harvard's Weissman Preservation Center in preparation for digitization. There is more detailed information in the repository. Harvard's Imaging Services department digitized this collection as part of the "Original botanical illustrations of the Botany Libraries" project.

Conrad Loddiges & Sons orchid watercolors, 1844-1856: A Guide.
Botany Libraries, Oakes Ames Orchid Library, Harvard University.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Orchid Library of Oakes Ames, Harvard University Repository

The Harvard University Herbaria houses five comprehensive, non-circulating research libraries that are managed collectively as the Botany Libraries.The Oakes Ames Orchid Library specializes exclusively in the identification and classification of the orchid family (Orchidaceae). The Archives of the Oakes Ames Orchid Herbarium houses unique resources including personal papers, institutional records, field notes and plant lists, expedition records, photographs, original artwork, and objects from faculty, curators, staff, and affiliates of the Orchid Herbarium.

Harvard University Herbaria
22 Divinity Ave
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2366