Who is Susan Orlean in The Orchid Thief?

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caroline-harrison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Susan Orlean is the author of The Orchid Thief. At the time, Orlean was working for The New Yorker as a writer. Orlean was intrigued when she heard that a white man and three Seminole tribe members had been arrested for stealing orchids from a preserve in Florida. Intending to write an article about the men, Orlean travelled to Florida to meet the white man in question, John Laroche. As Orlean learns more and more about the world of plant breeders and the circumstances surrounding Laroche’s arrest, her article morphs into an entire book. Orlean herself becomes invested in the plant world as she learns about the breeder community and speaks with various plant dealers about what it takes to create new species of plants. She learns about the high stakes aspects of breeding, such as plant competitions where dealers like Laroche attempt to make a name for themselves in the plant breeding world. As her investigation continues, Orlean becomes slightly obsessed with the ghost orchid, the rare breed of orchid that Laroche was attempting to take from the preserve. Unfortunately, Orlean is not able to achieve her goal of seeing the ghost orchid in person. Ultimately, Orlean concludes that Laroche’s obsession with horticulture is not actually that unusual, and she discovers an entire community devoted to the care, breeding, and business of plants.

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The Orchid Thief

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