Written records from about 700 B.C. show that orchids originated in China and Japan, where they were used for natural remedies. The plants began their westward migration in the 1700s, when English missionaries to Asia brought the flowers home as gifts, according to the North of England Orchid Society.
During that time, the owners of plant nurseries also harvested orchids to sell to wealthy buyers who could afford the special hot houses necessary to maintain the delicate blooms. Modern varieties are easier to cultivate, and orchids now grow in every country. More than 35,000 species of orchids are on record.