Orchids date back millions of years. But in the 1800s, the plants became a status symbol and the cornerstone of a high-dollar industry. Collecting the plants involved adventure and excitement -- and a high death rate.
Nikolai Vavilov traveled to 64 countries gathering seeds and plants and established the first seed bank. Stalin had the botanist sentenced to death, but his seed bank endured: Other scientists guarded the stores from rats, starving Russians and the Nazis.