UWE Bristol student gains recognition for wild orchid research

Issue date: 29 May 2012

Dino Zelenika

A UWE Bristol student is pursuing a passion for researching wild orchids alongside his undergraduate history degree.

At 21, Dino Zelenika is used to being the youngest person at the various orchid associations and meetings he attends. Despite his age Dino has already carried out field research into wild orchids in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH) where he was born. This research with his photos will feature in the latest issue of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) journal The Orchid Review. The Orchid Review is the oldest and most influential orchid magazine in the world, and has been published since 1893, when Victorian society was in the grip of orchid mania.

Editor Sarah Forsyth says, “Dino is one of the youngest authors The Orchid Review has ever published. The research he has carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina is important because there is very little up-to-date information available on the orchids of this beautiful region. I always try to publish orchid information unavailable elsewhere in The Orchid Review.”

Dino moved to the UK when he was eight years old and has been growing orchids since the age of 12. He now has more than 300 plants in his greenhouse in Bristol. He is a member of several Orchid Societies and is undertaking the four year training to become an orchid judge.

Dino says, “I have loved plants and flowers from a very young age. When I wanted to find out about the wild orchids in the Balkans, I found there was very little research available. So I went to Bosnia Herzegovina with my camera and took thousands of photos recording and documenting 40 species of wild orchid. Since then I have attended an international conference in Singapore which was an amazing experience, with 1,000 orchid experts from around the world and more than 300,000 visitors. I am learning how to present my work and how to develop research in the areas I am interested in. I have now been invited to host a symposium at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, about my research.

“As part of my degree I hope to combine my interest in orchids with my history studies by carrying out research into the economics of the orchid industry in Victorian times. I am fascinated by this period when orchids were a major aristocratic hobby and collectors travelled the world to find rare plants that were sold for more than £10,000. The practice of collecting orchids from the wild and bringing them back on ships led to the loss of thousands of species during this time.

“Orchids have always fascinated people. They are the largest plant family in the world with more than 25,000 species and more than 100,000 hybrids. They can be found on every continent apart from Antarctica, and range in size from a few millimetres across to huge plants the size of a Mini Cooper car, in every colour and shape. Some smell beautiful and others have a really unpleasant smell. My personal favourite is probably the large-flowered Cattleya orchid from South America – it looks very aristocratic.”

Dino is a member of Bristol & West of England Orchid Society, and Devon Orchid Society, the Orchid Society of Great Britain, and he is now training to be an orchid judge for the British Orchid Council (BOC). The orchid judge training takes four years and accredited judges can judge at all orchid shows in the United Kingdom, including the prestigious international London Orchid Show every March and the Peterborough Orchid Show every July. BOC judges often participate in the judging of shows overseas, most notably shows such as the World Orchid Conferences (WOC).


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