Orchid Society of
Western Australia (Inc)
Ecuador - An orchid lovers' paradise
Ecuador is located on the equator on the north-western coast of South
America, to the south of Colombia. A diverse landscape includes Amazon
jungle, Andean highlands and the wildlife-rich Galápagos Islands.
Quito, the capital is nearly 3km above sea level and is know for its Spanish
colonial architecture with 16th and 17th century palaces and churches
including the ornate Compañía de Jesús cathedral.
The Republic of Ecuador has a population
15.5 million of which 1.6 million live in Quito and 2.3 million live in
Guayaquil. Its currency is the US$. The official language is Spanish.
Ecuador's economy is based on the production and export of agricultural
product and natural resources including petroleum.
Ecuador has more than 4,000 species of orchids, with more that are not
yet fully described. This represents the greatest orchid diversity of
any country in the world, and is a magnet for species enthusiasts. More
than 20% of the vascular plants in Ecuador are orchids.
In 2003, Dodson, CH reported that 473
of the 1,300 species of Pleurothallis are found in Ecuador. Similarly,
452 of the 1,2000 species of Epidendrum, 336 of the 700 species
of Lepanthes and 200 of the 650 species of Maxillaria are
reported in Ecuador.
Orchids can be found throughout Ecuador in many different habitats from
high altitude species at up to 4 km above sea level to those growing along
the coast. The majority are found in mist forests and wet rainforests.
As we know, many grow high up in the canopy, but others are much more
accessible growing closer to the ground, or in the case of lithophytes
and terrestrials, in the leaf litter.
of the best known Ecuadorian orchids (also found in Peru) is the ubiquitous
Dracula simia, (syn Dracula gigas) the monkey-face orchid
often included in unusual flower photos posted on Facebook or circulated
via social media and e-mail.
Dracula simia Photo
Dracula simia is a high altitude species found in cloud forests
at 1,600-2,000m, so is seldom seen in situ other than by serious enthusiasts
prepared to hike through the forests., although is now more common in
specialised collections. The best way to see some of these rarer orchids
is in reserves and orchid gardens of which there are many in Ecuador.
Entry to orchid gardens and reserves is reasonably priced, and some have
guided tours that are also quite reasonably priced.
Some of the best places to see orchids are:
The Jardin de Orquideas (Orchid Garden) is across from the Mindo sport
stadium, and the cloud forest area in Mindo (2 hours from Quito) has an
impressive variety of in-situ species orchids.
Intag Cloud Forest Reserve
Located about 2.5 hours from Otavalo, the reserve is located in a biodiverse
region along the western slopes of the Andes. The reserve and the surrounding
primary cloud forests have more orchid species than continental United
States. Best times to visit are usually February/March and July/August.
Quito Botanical Garden,
Located in La Carolina Park, this garden has both cool and hot climate
orchid houses as well as a large collection of Ecuadorian plant species.
El Pahuma Orchid Reserve
This reserve is located about an hour north of Quito and has several hundred
species of orchids in a botanical garden. The 1500-acre reserve has hiking
trails that allow enthusiast access to more species in situ. Accommodation
is available at this reserve.
Masdevallia polysticta Photo
This facility is part of the University of Cuenca, and provides guided
tours of climate controlled glasshouses with more than 350 species of
orchids. Optimum time to visit is May - December.
Orchid and Botanical Garden of the Center for the Conservation of Amazonian
Flora. This restored forest has more than 350 species of orchids in addition
to other endemic plants. Guided tours are available. Located 3kms southeast
of the city of Puyo.
Podocarpus National Park
Located in southern Ecuador this is home to at least 63 species of orchids,
as well as a variety of flora and fauna. Hiking and camping can also be
enjoyed in the park. Best time to visit is September - December. The park
is 15 km from Loja, and can also be accessed from Zamora.
Three kms from Zamora, this garden has many orchids and there are other
small gardens throughout the city.
Ecuador and neighbouring Colombia and Peru are the home of the distinctive
Phragmipedium besseae. This species, which we often struggle to
maintain in cultivation can be found along cliff-faces at riversides,
on granite rocks and in wet montane forests.
Phragmipedium besseae Photo
Ecuador is home to some 200 species of Maxillaria. The following
photo of Maxillaria striata in situ shows its habitat and the profuse
flowering that some of these less commercially important species display
The genus Telipogon is also well represented with some 50 of the
total 135 species found in Ecuador. This in-situ photo of an unidentified
Telipogon spp shows the mist forest environment which many of the
Ecuadorian species thrive
However, Ecuador like many other tropical and sub-tropical countries faces
issues such as deforestation, habitat loss and over-collection of economically
important orchid species. To combat this, local organisations committed
to the preservation of wildlife seek and receive support from international
donors and enthusiasts. For example, the US-based Rainforest Trust and
its Ecuadorian conservation partner Fundación EcoMinga in late
2014 have together established a new reserve in the Chocó rainforest
that will protect rare, newly-discovered orchids and other species of
wildlife. With support from the Rainforest Trust and the University of
Basel Botanical Garden, Fundación EcoMinga purchased land for a
513-acre reserve that will protect 5 species of Dracula orchids.
Named for the sinister face-like appearance of their flowers, the Dracula
orchids are highly endemic with 90% of all species are found at three
or fewer localities. The Chocó rainforest, which lies along the
Pacific coast of Ecuador and Colombia, holds the world's highest amount
of orchid diversity, especially of the genus Dracula. Colombia
and Ecuador have about a quarter of the world's orchid species.
This region of Ecuador is one world's most biodiverse, but sadly, one
of the most threatened. This reserve provides a refuge for many of the
endangered and endemic species of plants and animals. Nearly a third of
orchid species found in Ecuador and Colombia are threatened with extinction
due to deforestation. It is likely that at least 14 Dracula species have
become extinct as a result. Wild populations are also threatened by commercial
collectors that supply Ecuadorian and international markets. In this regard,
it is important to satisfy ourselves that the suppliers we deal with comply
with the highest standards and do not export wild-collected species unless
they are properly authorised to do so. That said, Australia does not accept
commercial imports of plants unless they are certified to be CITES Schedule
ID or IIA
The Director of Fundación EcoMinga, Lou Jost said that he had not
ever seen so much orchid diversity in such a small area. The reserve will
also protect habitat for many endemic bird species, including the Long-wattled
EcoMinga is also negotiating the purchase of additional properties to
expand the Dracula Orchid Reserve and protect new Dracula and Lepanthes
species that have only recently been discovered and identified. Rainforest
Trust acknowledges its donors and partners that helped raise funds for
this reserve, especially Luanne Lemmer and Eric Veach, the University
of Basel Botanical Garden and the Quito Orchid Society.
Rainforest Trust is a nonprofit conservation organization focused on saving
rainforest and endangered species in partnership with local conservation
leaders and indigenous communities. Since founding in 1988, Rainforest
Trust has saved nearly 8 million acres of rainforest and other tropical
habitats and has 85 projects across 22 countries.
Fundación EcoMinga is an Ecuadorian nonprofit conservation organisation
that establishes strategic, science-based reserves to protect unique ecosystems
containing important clusters of locally-endemic plants and animals. Its
focus is on Andean cloud forests, the bioregion with the greatest amount
of endemism. The organisation has protected almost 12,000 acres of habitat
in eight reserves
Our recent import of Ecuadorian orchids came from Mundiflora. Their website
refers to their conservation credentials and commitment to
CITES principles. They say......
It is important to enhance that Mundiflora is a company that goes into
the Regulations and Vigentes laws in Ecuador, thanks to this, it obtained
the Scientist Permit of Investigation given from the Minister of the Environment
of Ecuador (MAE) for the Wild Flora rescue. Thanks to this permit, our
company will nearly be able to offer you a better diversity of plants,
which one will be reproduced and cultivated in our nursery. We have to
emphasize that our goal is not only to increase economic benefits, indeed
the company has promised to reintroduce about 10% of the species that
it reproduced into the natural environment, in order to help their saving
Mundiflora is a model of familiar company for which homes have become
a place of nature and beauty through flowers and ornaments plant, obtained
by an efficient quality process, using efficient brand new reproductive
technology, in harmony with the environment, which is based on motivated
clients, faith and satisfied in and over the country. It also contribute
to the society´s development thanks to the ecologic truism program
which let spread natural and cultural Ecuadorian wealth. His staff, highly
motivated and qualified, always act aimed to a constant practice of value.
To form an harmonious staff of collaborators able to interact into an
harmonious environment with their customers, inmate or external, dealing
with a deep respectful behavior to and human being, using flowers and
ornament plants beauty as the most effective way to bring happiness at
When I met with Magali Portilla at the WOC in Johannesburg in 2014, these
were among the matters that we discussed. I told her that wherever possible,
our Species Society is committed to conservation of wild orchid populations.
I was reassured by our conversation that they were not selling illegally
collected wild orchids, and the quality of plants that we recently received
confirmed this to be the case.
Hopefully, this short account will whet your appetite to visit Ecuador
for the 20th WOC in November 2016. Several WA orchid growers have already
decided to attend. Not only will there be an incredible display of South
American orchids (particularly species), there are excellent tours available
including those arranged by both Mundiflora and Ecuagenera
20th World Orchid Conference
While the 20th World Orchid Conference in Ecuador is still two years away,
for those of you planning to attend a WOC at some time in your orchid
growing life, now is the time to give serious thought to being part of
what promises to be one of the best of these events. To be held in Guayaquil,
a modern and vibrant coastal city in Ecuador, the 20th WOC is scheduled
to take place in early November, 2017. Given the quality and variety of
tropical and sub-tropical orchids in their display at Johannesburg in
2014, it is likely to be absolutely spectacular.
Guayaquil is Ecuador's most populated city. Known as "La Perla del
Pacífico " (Pearl of the Pacific), Guayaquil has lived an
incredible architectonic development and was recently recognized as the
city with the most successful urban regeneration process. The transport
system 'Metrovía ', 'José Joaquín de Olmedo 'International
Airport, "Puerto Santa Ana " and "Malecón 2000 "
are icons in Guayaquil's development.
In addition to its urban growth, the city offers a spectacular variety
of culinary, artistic and cultural highlights. Visitors are also captivated
by the hospitality of its people. The climate of the city, due to its
location, is sunny during the day and temperate at nights. (November range
from 22°C to 33°C).
To be held in the Guayaquil Convention Centre, the conference will focus
on Science, Horticulture and Conservation biology. Each of the four days
of lectures commencing Wednesday, 8 November 2017 will feature two concurrent
sessions with simultaneous translation (English-Spanish). Registrations
at concessional prices are now available., and I assume that once registered,
information will be e-mailed on a regular basis to registrants.
The Show is likely to attract exhibitors from all over the world, but
particularly South, Central and North America. While I hope that the emphasis
is on species, I am sure that there will be many displays featuring hybrids
for those whose interests lie in that direction. As many of you will know,
South America is the richest source of animal and plant diversity and
this applies to orchids.
The Conference Tour program is not yet finalised, but promises to offer
a range of interesting local short and longer Ecuador wild orchid tours.
However a number of us from WA are planning to attend and it is possible
that we might also co-ordinate our travel, remembering that given the
cost and distance to travel, we may wish to visit other countries in South
America whilst we are there.
The WOC website can be found HERE
General information about Guayaquil can
be found HERE
and the Virtual Tourist site can be found