Stetson Professor to Promote Orchid Conservation at Chelsea Flower Show in London

portrait at the orchid display table at 2023 Chelsea Flower Show in London.
portrait at the orchid display table at 2023 Chelsea Flower Show in London.
Haleigh Ray, PhD, represented Stetson at the 2023 Chelsea Flower Show in the U.K. and was invited back this year.

A Stetson University professor and expert in orchid biology will return to London for this year’s Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show to promote the conservation of orchids.

Assistant Biology Professor Haleigh Ray, PhD, was part of an orchid team from several universities and botanic gardens that won a silver medal in the education category at last year’s show for their display, “Finding the Rare Florida Ghost Orchid, and More.”

Ray will return for this year’s show on May 20-25 and represent Stetson in a display, “Orchids in the Wild – The Beauty of Nature,” focusing on orchid conservation in North America, Great Britain and India, and highlighting the flower’s dependence on insect pollinators.

Haleigh Ray sets up a display at the flower show.
Haleigh Ray, PhD, worked on the team’s display at the 2023 Chelsea Flower Show.

“With my background in orchid pollination, I will be leading the ‘pollination education’ aspect of our display and bringing insect specimens from the Stetson Biology Department’s natural history museum,” Ray said.

“Florida is home to over 100 species of native orchids, many of which are threatened or endangered,” she added. “Understanding how these plants reproduce is a key part of conserving their remaining populations.”

Orchids are not only beautiful, but they also play a vital role as indicators of the wider health of ecosystems. The conservation and protection of natural orchid habitat has become a central focus of conservation efforts on an international scale.

“The conservation and protection of the world’s native habitat of naturally growing orchids, plants and trees is vital to our civilization and well-being. As the orchid family is the largest family of vascular plants on Earth, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show gives reason to celebrate and commit to conservation and ‘carry the message by scientific research and individual action,’ ” said John Parke Wright IV, Chairman of Orchid Conservation Chelsea.

portrait outside
Elizabeth Skomp, PhD

Professor Ray will join this year’s U.S. team for the display, along with experts from Longwood Gardens, the North American Orchid Conservation Center / Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, The American Orchid Society, Chicago Botanic Garden, Naples Botanical Garden, Humboldt Botanical Garden, University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Illinois College and the University of Florida.

“I’m delighted that Dr. Ray has been invited — based on last year’s successful experience — to return with the U.S. team and showcase her expertise at the 2024 Chelsea Flower Show,” said Provost Elizabeth Skomp, PhD.  “This is a wonderful opportunity to raise Stetson’s visibility while promoting education and conservation.”