DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL MESOAMERICA

 
     
  Flora: THE ORCHIDS  

 

Orchids  (Orquideas in Spanish)  need little introduction, they are among the most popular, varied and attractive flowers, with countless books, societies and friends.  The Orchidaceae Family is also huge and varied, vying with the aster family for the most species-- roughly 25,000 recognized to date and over 100,000 cultivars and hybrids registered.  The family is found mainly in the tropics, and the mesoamerican Neotropics has its fair share.  Identification is further complicated by both foreign natural orchids and by the horticultural frankensteins tending to leave gardens and go native.

Most photos of orchids, both in books and on the 'web', are of garden or greenhouse specimens which have been well cared for and selectively bred.  The majority of the photos shown here are flowers in their natural habitat, and may look a tad more bedraggled from their battles with insects and with mother nature in general.

With so much going for them, the name 'orchid' is apparently derived from the Greek word for testicles, in view of the shape of their roots.  Seeds tend to be minute and wind distributed.  The American Orchid Society has its website at www.aos.org, and there is a very informative orchid encyclopedia compiled by Jay Pfahl at www.orchidspecies.com.

 

What better place to start than with Colombia's national flower, the lovely Cattleya trianae, which is endemic to that country.  In English it tends to go by the name of Triana's Cattleya or as Christmas Orchid, and locally as the Flor de Mayo, although there are other flowers with claim to that name. Click to see big picture (510x480 pixels; 91 KB)
In nature, Cattleya trianae grows as an epiphyte in the mountains of the Colombian highlands.  It is now rare in the wild, but has been widely and proudly planted in many parts of Colombia, here attached to a fencepost. Click to see big picture (634x480 pixels; 97 KB)
Epidendrum radicans is a common ground orchid which is known as Bandera Español, the Spanish Flag Orchid, with respect to its colors.  It pops up from southern Mexico to Colombia, and can be weedy. Click to see big picture (617x480 pixels; 107 KB)
Epidendrum radicans is one of a group of species known as Crucifixion Orchids, because their lips (labella) are in the form of a cross (with some imagination).  They can be variable and difficult to tell apart.  Examples from Panama on left, Nicaragua on right. Click to see big picture (640x392 pixels; 100 KB)
As the name would imply, the South American Star Orchid (Epidendum ibaguense) is a southern cousin, here at the Omaere Ethnobotanical Gardens in Puyo, Ecuador.
Some of the Crucifixion Orchid species are 'non-resupinate', leading to their lips pointing up (or outward), instead of down.  This is an example from a garden in southern Mexico. Click to see big picture (604x480 pixels; 121 KB)
Epidendrum baumannianum has a range from Mexico to Ecuador, here caught in Colombia.  It is a ladder orchid with an odd lip, and is said to be ant protected. Click to see big picture (421x480 pixels; 71 KB)
Epidendrum piliferum is normally an epiphyte in cloud forests from Nicaragua to Panama, with the local name of Epidendro Canario.  It is here in the orchid garden of Dr. Stephan Kirby in central Costa Rica. Click to see big picture (587x480 pixels; 107 KB)
Above the town of Ulba in central Ecuador, this would be Epidendrum blepharistes, which is native to the highlands from Colombia to Bolivia.
At the same location, a fuller view of the attractive Epidendrum blepharistes.
From the garden of Dr. Stephan Kirby, we have.Epidendrum parkinsonianum, a hanging epiphyte resident from southern Mexico to Panama. Click to see big picture (546x480 pixels; 104 KB)
Epidendrum leucochilum ranges through the highlands from western Venezuela to Peru.
Epidendrum lacustre, the Lake Epidendrum, on Volcan Mombacho, above Lake Nicaragua.  Ranging from here south to Peru. Click to see big picture (490x480 pixels; 91 KB)
Known as the Ivory Epidendrum, E. eburneum may be found in Panama, Nicaragua and here in Costa Rica. Click to see big picture (424x480 pixels; 65 KB)
Epidendrum nocturnum is a widespread species in the Neotropics with a minimalist style.  It is known as the Night Scented Orchid, and puts out an odor at night to attract moths. Click to see big picture (475x480 pixels; 78 KB)
Epidendrum wallisii is also known as Oerstedella wallisii.  It may be found in parts of Costa Rica and Panama, here from the Toro Valley of the former. Click to see big picture (640x419 pixels; 106 KB)
Likely the closest thing to a pantropical weed in the orchid family is Arundina graminifolia.  As to its origin, it may be blamed on southeast Asia, but it has been introduced to Mesoamerica and elsewhere and rapidly naturalized.  Bamboo Orchid is perhaps its most common name. Click to see big picture (640x392 pixels; 107 KB)
An even taller terrestrial orchid, from high on Cerro del Muerte, Costa Rica.  Unidentified, with unusual striped pods. Click to see big picture (640x421 pixels; 114 KB)
Apparentlyy Maxillaria setigera in the Colombian highlands.  This is a feature of the mountains from here to Bolivia. Click to see big picture (301x480 pixels; 63 KB)
Maxillaria lepidota is native from Venezuela to Peru, and known as the Scaled Maxillaria in gardens. Most specimens are of a more yellow hue than this one exhibited at the Botanical Gardensl of Quito.
From the mountains of Columbia, this looks like another Maxillaria, species, unidentified. Click to see big picture (465x480 pixels; 72 KB)
At the Santa Elena Reserve in Costa Rica, I was informed that this is another yellow Maxillaria. Click to see big picture (640x464 pixels; 118 KB)
Maxillaria (or Camaridium) bradeorum is known as Brade's Maxillaria, found mainly in Costa Rica and Panama.  Here it blooms in the Dr. Stephan Kirby garden in the former. Click to see big picture (368x480 pixels; 91 KB)
The attractive Miltoniopsis vexillaria is a child of the Colombian Mountains.  A variable epiphyte, it is now mainly found in gardens, but  here it is on its home turf. Click to see big picture (587x480 pixels; 77 KB)
Lycaste macrophylla is really a species complex found from here in Costa Rica to Bolivia and Venezuela.  Known as the Large Leaf Lycaste. Click to see big picture (338x480 pixels; 67 KB)
A closer look at the flower of Lycaste macrophylla at the Dr. Stephan Kirby gardens. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 87 KB)
Switching to the Denver Botanical Gardens, these are the unusual pleated pseudo-bulbs of Gongora fulva, which might prefer to be at home from Costa Rica to Colombia. Click to see big picture (515x480 pixels; 129 KB)
The Dracula genus is named for its long leaf extensions, rather than for the famous count.  Some species have odd patterns, and Dracula simia even has a face, emphasized in cultivars.  Say hello to the Monkey Faced Dracula, here in a garden in the town of Volcancito, western Panama.  This one looks more like a bearded philosopher than a monkey. Click to see big picture (305x480 pixels; 49 KB)
From a cloud forest in northern NIcaragua, this appears to be Masdevallia attenuata, approximately.  The roughly 500 members of this genus are mainly found at altitude. This species hides out in cloud forests from here to Ecuador Click to see big picture (531x480 pixels; 95 KB)
Masdevallia ignea is endemic to the mountains of Colombia, this photo from near an alpine paramo in that county.  Click to see big picture (370x480 pixels; 60 KB)
Masdevallia coccinea above the town of Ibague in Colombia.  It graces the Andes from here to northern Peru. Click to see big picture (448x480 pixels; 69 KB)
Masdevallia coccinea also comes in a bright red, in fact one of its names is Scarlet Masdevallia. Click to see big picture (397x480 pixels; 59 KB)
On Volcan Mombacho in Nicaragua, Sobralia decora is said to interbreed with Sobralia warszewiczii.  This looks more like the latter, which is also known as S. bradeorum.  A lovely terrestrial orchid whose flower lasts only one day, hence Orquidea de 24 Horas. Click to see big picture (615x480 pixels; 130 KB)
Sobralia leucoxantha is another beautiful and scented orchid with a short life.  It is mainly found from Costa Rica to Colombia, here blooming in the San Blas Range of Panama. Click to see big picture (552x480 pixels; 85 KB)
Sobralia (or Fregea) amabilis at Quetzal Park in Costa Rica.  It is a mountain species, ranging from here to Ecuador. Click to see big picture (555x480 pixels; 102 KB)
Sobralia rosea is a large, terrestrial orchid, here by the Pucuno River in Ecuador.  It ranges from Colombia to Peru.
Back to the San Blas Range of northeastern Panama for Pescatorea cerina.  Known as the Waxy Pescatorea, it is a fragrant inhabitant of the forests from Costa Rica to Colombia. Click to see big picture (519x480 pixels; 90 KB)
Brassavola nodosa is a hardy and popular lowland species, which releases a citrus odor at night to attract moths. It is hence one of the species known as Lady of the Night.  Found in many places in the northern Neotropics and Caribbean, this one blooms on Bastimentos Island, Panama. Click to see big picture (640x455 pixels; 120 KB)
Phragmipedium longifolium at the KEW gardens, one of the genera to produce Lady Slipper Orchids.  This case seems to have become a bit twisted by life in London. Click to see big picture (640x415 pixels; 99 KB)
And here is Phragmipedium longifolium at home in Costa Rica, where slipper orchids tend to be called Zapatillas.  In the garden trade it is simply translated as Long-leaf Phragmipedium.  Native as far south as Ecuador. Click to see big picture (579x480 pixels; 120 KB)
An unidentified slipper orchid.  Several species look like this, but most are more at home in Ecuador and Peru than here in Colombia. Click to see big picture (543x480 pixels; 59 KB)
A spectacular zapatilla in a garden near Bogota.   Alas it may be neither local nor natural. Click to see big picture (454x480 pixels; 106 KB)
Phragmipedium caudatum, the Tailed Phragmipedium, ranges through the mountains from southern Mexico to Peru.  This one, however, is seated in the botanical gardens at UC Berkeley. Click to see big picture (640x401 pixels; 112 KB)
Fragrant, long lasting and hardy, Encyclia (or Prosthechea) prismatocarpa has become a popular garden item under the name of Prismatic Seedpod Encyclia.  There are more colorful cultivars.  It seems to be native to Costa Rica and here in Panama. Click to see big picture (544x480 pixels; 77 KB)
Encyclia (or Prosthechea) cochleata is one of the species known as Clam Shell Orchids.  It inhabits the northern Neotropics, and is here growing in a garden in southern Mexico. Click to see big picture (397x480 pixels; 82 KB)
Presently named Prosthechea fragrans, the Cockle Shell Orchid has resided in both the Encyclia and Epidendrum genera.  Found widely through the Caribbean and Neotropics, this one is blooming in north-central Panama.  As the name would suggest, it is fragrant. Click to see big picture (527x480 pixels; 79 KB)
Prosthechea (or Encyclia) vespa, showing off in a Bogota garden.  It is native to the Caribbean, and to the region from Nicaragua to Bolivia and Surinam. Click to see big picture (640x350 pixels; 99 KB)
This somewhat anorexic orchid flower in Panama looks quite a bit like Prosthechea rhynchophora, but is out of range for that species, and is likely something else. Click to see big picture (453x480 pixels; 96 KB)
This appears to be Lycaste cochleata, native from Mexico to Nicaragua.  If so, it is out of range here in Colombia, but the area was once an estate, and it may have been planted. Click to see big picture (640x416 pixels; 72 KB)
Showing how the pods of Xylobium elongatum spring open to release its seeds.  I was too late for the flowers. Click to see big picture (555x480 pixels; 100 KB)
Pleurothallis obovata seems the presently preferred name, although there are many contenders.  In garden circles it goes by terms such as South American Bonnet Orchid and Reverse, Egg-shaped Pleurothallis.  It ranges from the Caribbean to Argentina, here at the gardens of UC Berkeley. Click to see big picture (317x480 pixels; 70 KB)
The Pleurothallis genus also contains many of the small orchids in which the flowers are attached to the leaves.  This would be P. dentipetala, endemic to moderate elevations in Costa Rica, and here at the Bosque de Paz.  I missed the minute flowers. Click to see big picture (329x480 pixels; 56 KB)
Pleurothallis matudana in a cloud forest of northern Nicaragua.  This leaf-flower orchid occurs at moderate altitude through much of Central America and northwestern South America. Click to see big picture (626x480 pixels; 143 KB)
And from a Costa Rican garden, the large pod for this micro orchid. Click to see big picture (640x433 pixels; 86 KB)
Back to that Nicaraguan cloud forest for what appears to be Pleurothallis titan, native from here to Ecuador.  Click to see big picture (550x480 pixels; 98 KB)
A closer look at the flower of Pleurothallis titan. Click to see big picture (316x480 pixels; 60 KB)
Some of the smallest orchids in the world are of the Platystele genus.  Here is one in the Guatusos Refuge on the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border.  The taxonomy seems confused and I will not venture a guess as to the species. Click to see big picture (416x480 pixels; 77 KB)
Lockhartia oerstedii at the Dr. Stephen Kirby garden in Costa Rica.  Some authorities indicate that this species ranges from Mexico to Colombia, while other suggest it is native only to southern Mexico and Guatemala. Click to see big picture (358x480 pixels; 62 KB)
Lockhartia species tend to have long stems with imbricate leaves.  L. acuta at the Guatusos Refuge is about to bloom, one of the few of its genus with white flowers. Click to see big picture (179x480 pixels; 41 KB)
Oncidium lineoligerum (or stenotis) is one of the Cascade Orchids known as Lluvia del Oro (golden rain).  The English name of Tight-eared Oncidium is less imaginative. Click to see big picture (455x480 pixels; 113 KB)
A closer look at the Oncidium lineoligerum flower, natural from southern Nicaragua to western Panama.  The genus is said to be 'unstable', meaning there is likely to be a rehash of the nomenclature. Click to see big picture (640x477 pixels; 68 KB)
Another Lluvia del Oro Orchid in central Panama.  The enlargement on the right shows that the flowers are quite complex. Click to see big picture (580x480 pixels; 136 KB)
Oncidium sphacelatum (approx.) in central Nicaragua.  This goes by names such as Burnt Spot Oncidium and Popcorn Orchid.  Southern Mexico to Panama. Click to see big picture (640x428 pixels; 91 KB)
A more definitive example of Oncidium sphacelatum is exhibited at the Matthaei Gardens in Ann Arbor.
Oncidium vulcanicum is also known as Cochlioda vulcancia.  It is a mountain species, ranging from Colombia to northern Peru.   Quito Botancial Gardens.
Oncidium stipitatum, alias Trichocentrum lacerum is found in Panama and Colombia, here at the Gamboa Rainforest Lodge in the former.
Oncidium cheirophorum in the Jaguar Reserve of Nicaragua.  It is a highland plant which ranges from Honduras to Colombia, and has the unusual name of Handcarrying Oncidium. Click to see big picture (640x404 pixels; 81 KB)
Odontoglossum luteopurpureum hales from a genus related to Oncidium.  It is a variable species, and here in the highlands of Colombia seems to be known as Aguadija (approx.).  It is endemic to the Andes of Colombia. Click to see big picture (540x480 pixels; 83 KB)
A somewhat similar but fancier orchid in a garden in Bogota.  Apparently also Odontoglossum luteopurpureum, perhaps a cultivar. Click to see big picture (475x480 pixels; 81 KB)
Odontoglossum crispum  from altitude in Columbia where it an endemic epiphyte.  Some consider this the most beautiful of orchids.  On the other hand it has been given the name of Curled Odontoglossum.  Other sources label it as Oncidium alexandrae. Click to see big picture (606x480 pixels; 88 KB)
For some reason this one is known as the Jungle Cat Orchid, from the higher mountains of Costa Rica.  Rhynchostele hortensiae seems the presently preferred name, although some claim it is an Odontoglossum. Click to see big picture (546x480 pixels; 76 KB)
Ada (or Brassia) allenii appears to be native to Panama.  Here it is in that country's Cordillera San Blas. Click to see big picture (316x480 pixels; 90 KB)
A streamer orchid from the Santa Elena region of central Costa Rica.  The flowers are brownish with a greenish lip, but I have not been able to identify it. Click to see big picture (358x480 pixels; 90 KB)
ui At the Papallacta Hotsprings in the mountains east of Quito, introducing Cyrtochilum pardinum, which may be found in the high country from Colombia to northern Peru.
Cytochilum macranthum looks quite different.  Here is blooms (unlabelled) at the Botanical Gardens of Quito. 
Known only as Cyrtochilum sp. at Quito's Botanical Gardens.  Perhaps a cultivar. There are those who would bury this entire genus in the Oncidiums, and I have been told it is known as Oncidium hastilabium.
Unlabelled at the Bogota's botanical gardens, this appears to be something out of the Stelis genus.
The Tropical Bog Orchid (Habenaria monorrhiza) is found in the highlands from Guatemala and the Caribbean to Bolivia. This one is rooted to north of the town of Puyo, Ecuador.
Anguloa uniflora is found along he eastern edge of the Andes of Ecuador and Peru.  This one, however, is in the botanical gardens of Quito.
Caucaea nubigena seems confined to the Andes of Ecuador, here blooming at the Papallacta Hotsprings east of Quito.
While somewhat higher, Caucaea cucullata descends from a tree on which it is an epiphyte.  There are those who would drown this genus in the Oncidiums.
Elleanthus aurantiacus is a retiring orchid, but widespread, ranging from Honduras to Bolivia.  Here it blooms in the El Dorado Reserve of northeastern Colombia.
An attractive epiphyte for which I have no name, at the Wildsumaco Reserve, Ecuador.