Species 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.

One 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 source:

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 source:

Cuenca Orchidarium
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.


Orquideario Palphinia

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 source










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








Photo source:



Photo source:
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 Umbrella bird.
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 at http://www.mundiflora.com/ 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 and conservation.
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 home.
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 HERE