David Bird has loved orchids since he was 16 years old. He got his first glimpse of the flower on a trip to Hawaii, and it sparked a lifelong passion. He took five flowers home with him and began the long process of learning to care for this notoriously difficult plant, eventually starting his own business as an orchid grower.
Bird initially starting growing his flowers the way many do, in a greenhouse. But a sign advertising underground storage intrigued him, and his orchid farm moved from its above-ground location to its current home, a cave 150 feet beneath Kansas City, Missouri.
The cave holds 10,000 orchids, spread out over three rooms in a number of varieties. The subterranean growing space is climate controlled, in part due to nature (it being underground means the humidity levels are just right and it’s already cooled), and partly because of Bird’s equipment. The heat lamps he uses to grow his flowers can be cranked up to heat the cave, and the temperature can easily be lowered by letting some of the naturally cool cave air circulate again.
Some of the plants are brought in from other growers and are in Bird’s cave to bloom. He also works with other orchid growers to develop their own unique varieties of the plant. His unusual growing space is also host to a number of classes for those wanting to bring some orchids into their own lives. But as Bird warns, “Start with one, 20 orchids and you’re hooked, 60 plants and you’re obsessed; 10,000, there’s no turning back.”
Update January 2019: Due to a fire, he is no longer located at the caves. Check his website for up to date news.