Susan Orlean

Susan Orlean was inspired to write The Orchid Thief when she found a newspaper article about John Laroche. Originally, she only planned to write a short article about Laroche for The New Yorker, but she soon found that there was more to the story. In the book, she writes about exploring the world of plant breeders, shows, and conventions, and she speaks with many dealers, including Laroche, about their work. She adds to their insights by recounting the history of orchid collecting, discussing some of the intrigues in the plant world, and following Laroche's legal battle. In the end, despite Laroche's best efforts, Orlean never gets to see the ghost orchid.

John Laroche

John Laroche has two nicknames: Troublemaker and Crazy White Man. He's tall, skinny, eccentric, and is missing his front teeth. He has had many passions in life: turtles, Ice Age fossils, old mirrors, and, perhaps most importantly, plants. When Susan Orlean meets him, he's obsessed with plants, in particular orchids. He's a big name in the plant world and wants to strike it rich by cloning the rare, expensive ghost orchid. He's arrested after he attempts to steal plants from the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve with the help of three Seminoles. He argues that he's not culpable because he himself never touched the plants, but the judge doesn't agree. He's sentenced to six months probation and a fine. Following this, he loses interest in plants and becomes obsessed with computers.

Chief James E. Billie

Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. "Chief" Billie was arrested for killing a Florida panther, a protected species, but was acquitted on a technicality: the prosecution couldn’t prove for sure that the animal was, in fact, a Florida panther, because its genes had been muddled by cross-breeding of species in the wild. Chief Billie successfully argued that he killed the beast for a Seminole religious ceremony. His acquittal inspired Laroche to take advantage of the "Seminole loophole."

Tom Fennell

Fennell is one of the most well-known orchid men in Florida. In 1994, Fennell became a...

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