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Benedikt Roezl

Czech gardener, traveller and collector Benedikt Roezl (August 13, 1823, Horoměřice u Prahy - October 14, 1885, Prague) was probably the most famous collector of orchids of his time. Among many other species he discovered is Zamia roezlii, a Colombian cycad, the tallest and (in evolutionary terms) oldest Zamia of all. He also collected the plant of Zamia lindenii from which the species was described.

Traveller, gardener and botanist, Roezl was first trained as a gardener at Count Thun's gardens in northern Bohemia, western part of Czech kingdom in Austrian empire.

Belgium, Mexico and the Americas

After taking several gardening jobs in 1846 he started working as a gardener in the Louise van Houtte garden in the Belgian Gent. Thanks to his knowledge he became the main gardener of its tropical greenhouses and later, when the garden became a national institute, he was named the main gardener too.  However, as he was always attracted to exotic destinations, he left from the Dutch Vlissing port to New Orleans on March 1, then leaving for Mexico. He has sent his first collected plants to Gent.

He settled briefly in Mexico, buying a restaurant and growing Ramies for fibre. Later he was known as a fields owner, custom officer, director and military defendor of the local port in Sontekomapan. He is the first designer of the parks in the City of Mexico, upon the invitation of the president Lerdo de Tejada.

Loss of hand

A major change in his life came at a exhibition in Cuba. He was requested to try whether a machine he constructed for Ramies could be used for extracting fibre from Agaves. The experiment resulted in an accident in which he lost his hand. It also changed his life completely as he could not continue his normal work. He later equipped his amputated hand with an iron hook, an instrument which made him quite popular among local Indians, who kept bringing him plants. He first considered returning to Bohemia, but then transferred his property to relatives and decided to begin a collectors business, originally on his own.

Collecting for Sander & Co

His life as a collector of exotic species continued in the services of Sander & Co., for which he worked for 40 years. On a horse or walking, he travelled all the American continent from Mexico to Cuba, from California to New York through the Rocky Mountains. From Panama and Colombia he sent more than 10,000 orchids to Europe, from the Santa Martha region he travelled to Río Hacha, collecting more than 3,000 Odontoglossum orchids. In the Washington area he collected conifer seeds. He travelled around Peru and the Andes. After a brief visit in his parents home in Bohemia he returned to New York through Liverpool and then to Colorado on August 3, 1872. From the Central American Sierra Madre he sent another 3,500 Odontoglossum orchids. He travelled from Panama to Venezuela, sending 8 tons of orchids to London, and from the Oaxaca (Mexico) more than 10 tons of cacti, agave and orchids. From Peru he brought back more than 10,000 different plants.

According to R. J. Ferry “the association was to be a success story for Roezl, and a major turning point in Sander's life. ... The business began modestly, but Roezl's consignments of orchids and tropical plants became so extensive that a huge warehouse adjoining the seed shop was literally filled from floor to ceiling. Orchids had never before entered England in such quantity, and Sander's systematic method of selling the plants was so profitable for both men that Roezl was able to retire comfortably in his native city of Prague.”

Despite the loss of a hand, Roezl travelled the world and discovered over 800 species of orchids, with more than forty named in his honour. He was usually accompanied by some of his relatives. Some of them later remained in the Americas, helping him to continue in the business after he returned to Bohemia.

Return to Prague

He settled in Prague in 1875, selling exotic species around Europe and becoming the first president of the Flora botanical society and the founder of the first Czech botanical magazine Flora in 1880.

On the end of his life he was honoured by the Order of St. Stanislaus given to him by the Russian tzar. Similar proposal of the Belgian government did not arrive on time, as Roezl died in 1885 in Prague. He was buried in Panenský Týnec.

In 1898 Roezl was honoured by a statue, still standing on Prague's Charles Square.

Plants described by Roezl

The list of the plants described by Roezl can be found at IPNI here. Among the orchids named in his honour are:

  1. Miltoniopsis roezlii

  2. Pescatorea roezlii

  3. Selenipedium roezlii

  4. Sobralia roezlii

  5. and the genus Roezliella

Other plants named in his honour:

  1. Zamia roezlii

  2. Ribes roezlii - Sierra gooseberry


  1. Garden ,The, 1885, Obituary, Vo. 28, no. 727

  2. Gardeners' Chronicle, 1885. Benedict Roezl. Vol. 24, no. 617

  3. Gardeners' Chronicle, 1892. Benedict Roezl.Vol. 11, no. 263

  4. Gardening World, The, 1885, October 24

  5. Kline, Mary C. 1963.Benedict Roezl- Famous orchid collectors, American Orch. Society Bull. 32, no. 8

  6. Lev V.: Benedikt Roezl, Orbis, Praha, 1949 - the main biography on Roezl in Czech language

  7. Sander, F. 1952. Benedict Roezl and Cattleya aurea, The Orch.Rev. 60, no. 710


Don Benito
Correct name and abbreviation

Roezl’s name should be correctly spelled as “Benedikt Roezl”.

However, the first name is often misspelled as Benedict. Also the last name is used in different variants - the name Rözl is used on his tomb in Panenský Týnec even though Roezl was known to establish a Gardening society “Roezl” during his life. To add another possibility, one of his sisters wrote her name as Anna Rösslová. The Indians simply called him Don Benito.

The standard author abbreviation “Roezl” is used to indicate Benedikt Roezl as the author when citing a botanical name.

More information

  1. Good article:

  2. Benedikt Roezl among key orchid people at Kew:

Photo: Roezl was honoured by a statue in 1898, still standing on Charles Square in Prague. Note the orchid in his hand and an Indian sitting behind Roezl.

Literature by Roezl

  1. Benedikt Roezl: Catalogue des graines de Coniferes mexicains. 1857.

  2. Benedikt Roezl: My last trip to the western coast of Mexico, 188? in Czech language, magazine Flora as "Poslední má cesta na západní pobřeží mexické"

  3. Benedikt Roezl: Plants I have discovered in North and South America, 188? in Czech language, magazine Flora as "Rostliny mnou v severní a jižní Americe objevené"