Orchids in Bloom

The College of the Ozarks creates a Garden of Eden with its extensive McDade Orchid Collection. Find out how you can see it for yourself.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.

In 1972, Clinton McDade donated the nucleus of his personal orchid collection—approximately 5,000 orchid plants—to the School of the Ozarks (now the College of the Ozarks). McDade was an alumnus of the school, graduating in 1911. He is claimed to be the first enrollee of the School of the Ozarks. McDade was a successful businessman, but he had a passion for orchids. He became an orchid grower, and his collection grew into two orchid houses, one in England. A selection of his orchids in England were used for the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II. With such prestige, it is no wonder that the orchids at the College of the Ozarks are such a rare treasure.

Because of his large donation (which is viewable to the public; see sidebar for details), the school had to build four orchid greenhouses that are still used to house the orchids. Today, the collection consists of 7,000 plants. These plants are cared for by the students under the watchful eye of the Greenhouses’ Supervisor, Nathan Bell. He says caring for these beautiful plants is similar to caring for any garden—with one exception: The orchids in this collection are around 50 to 60 years old! There are some newer plants, but for the most part, the orchids you see today are the original orchids Clinton McDade grew himself and donated to the school.

The collection consists of a variety of plants, including miniature orchids that require the use of a magnifying glass to see the bloom. And there are flowers that no one would ever suspect of being orchids. One orchid, the Bulboehyloum Echinolap, is a stringy flower that smells like “road kill,” in the words of Bell. This odor is meant to attract flies. As for their most popular flower, the Cattleya Bob Betts takes the cake. It is one of the oldest and most famous in the collection. This orchid was the standard for judging Cattleya orchids. Most gardens do not contain this rare flower, so it is a true wonder in this collection.
What started with Clinton McDade’s passion has grown into a beautiful collection. With the age of the orchids and variety these greenhouses contain, this collection is one to take pride in.

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The 411
The McDade Orchid Collection
Location: The College of the Ozarks greenhouses, One Opportunity Ave., Point Lookout, 417-334-6411, cofo.edu
More Info: Free. Open year-round; orchids in bloom Dec. and Jan.
Hours Mon.–Sat., 8 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.–5 p.m. excluding 11–noon in observance of chapel service.

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