Brooklyn Orchids

Orchids in Grand Cayman

I’m back from a weeklong vacation in Grand Cayman (and I miss it already)! When my husband and I travel, we always like to see if there’s anything orchid-related that we can visit. In my research on things to do in Grand Cayman, I came across a couple of good candidates so we made it a point to visit both. But before I dive in to our adventures with orchids, I simply must share a photo of the stunning view from the beach at our Airbnb condo:

The first activity of our vacation was the Cayman Turtle Center, which was not far from our condo. I wrote in more detail about the place in general on my personal blog, but I wanted to share the orchid part of the experience here.

We decided to buy passes for the full park (as opposed to passes restricted mostly to the turtle areas) because they allowed access to the Blue Hole Nature Trail, which has three species of wild orchids on display. I googled the native orchids in advance and learned that January is not their blooming season, but I wanted to check them out anyway.

The first orchid we encountered along the trail was the National Flower of the Cayman Islands: the Wild Banana Orchid (Myrmecophila thomsonia var. thomsonia):

Next to the plant they had a tall sculpture of a Wild Banana Orchid bloom:

The next wild orchid on the trail was the Monk Orchid (Oeceoclades maculata). I wasn’t sure which plant near the below-pictured sign was actually the orchid; after doing some Googling I’m not confident that I even captured the orchid in my photo. Let me know if you happen to see it in my photo…but nothing in it looks like the foliage in images I found online.

The third wild orchid along the trail was the rare, endangered Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax fawcetii), well known as the orchid discussed in Susan Orlean’s book The Orchid Thief and featured in the related movie Adaptation. Apologies for the really crappy photo below; I failed to apply bug spray before going on the trail and by the time we got to the area with the Ghost Orchid I was getting attacked by mosquitoes and wanted to GTFO ASAP. But you can see a couple Ghost Orchids on the tree, both above and below the teal sign. They’re basically just masses of roots when not in bloom.

Though it’s always cool to see orchids in their natural habitat, I would say it’s not worth spending the extra money for full turtle center passes to see three orchids that aren’t in bloom. But if any of them are in bloom—especially the Ghost Orchid—I’d say definitely go for it! And if you do go on the nature trail, make sure to apply bug spray beforehand.

The second orchid-related adventure of our vacation was a visit to Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, located about a 50-minute drive from our condo. This park has a wild orchid boardwalk which I’m sure is incredible when the orchids are actually in bloom. Seeing as how we were there in the off-season for most of the island’s native orchids, only a few were in bloom and they were all displayed in the entry area. This lovely Brassavola nodosa bloom greeted us when we stepped out of the welcome center into the park:

Though the orchids along the boardwalk weren’t in bloom, we did spot several in spike. It’s a little hard to see the spikes in my photos, but rest assured they are indeed there. Many of the orchids didn’t have tags so I’m not sure what most of these are…if you can identify any by sight please let me know in the comments!

A Prosthechea cochleata, perhaps? This one has a spike coming from the thinner growth on the left side of the orchid’s base.
Another orchid with a spike coming from the thin growth on the left…not sure what this one is.
Another one that’s hard to see, but this orchid had an impressively long spike starting from the bottom left of the plant. The spike was probably 2-3 feet tall! Another possible Prosthechea cochleata?
This orchid’s fat, juicy spike is easier to see jutting out from the upright growth in the front.

This orchid isn’t in spike, but I thought the root growth was interesting. I have no clue what type of orchid this is!

Here I am posing by a Myrmecocattleya Memoria Louise Fuchs AQ/AOS (‘Weesie’ AM/AOS x self).

According to the botanic park’s website, the orchids growing along the boardwalk include: Pleurothallis caymanensis, Encyclia boothiana, Dendrophylax fawcettii, Tolumnia variegata, Prescottia oligantha, Prosthechea cochleata, Cyclopogon elatus, and Oeceoclades maculata.

On the way to our car in the parking lot, I just happened to spot this enormous orchid in bloom:

It was hard to get close enough to take a detailed photo of those beautiful red blooms, but here’s a slightly better look:

I had posted the first pic of this orchid on Instagram and said that it was vandaceous, but one person commented that it’s a Renanthera. Upon Googling Renanthera, I am not convinced that’s what this orchid is. Renanthera is from Southeast Asia, though it’s certainly not impossible to transport an orchid to the Cayman Islands from there. But the photos of Renanthera blooms haven’t convinced me. These blooms look a lot more like some of the spindly Vandas, Ascocendas, or vandaceous hybrids that I’ve seen. I am certainly no expert, though. Feel free to weigh in on this orchid’s ID in the comments! I also emailed the park for an ID, so if they respond I’ll update this post.

Regardless of what that gigantic orchid is, seeing it was the perfect way to cap off our visit to the botanic park. Our orchid encounters weren’t quite over, however. On our final day in town we did a little shopping in George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands. My husband saw a sign for a stamp shop called The Penny Black, so we went upstairs and found this great little store with stamps galore. They turned out to have a bunch of orchid stamps from the Cayman Islands and around the world, so we ended up buying two sets of pretty orchid stamps, and the proprietor threw in a bonus orchid stamp for us as well:

Set 1 is along the top row; Set 2 is the bottom two rows and includes the Wild Banana Orchid—the one with the purple background on the left!
Bonus stamp!

Even though we didn’t get to see a whole lot of orchids in bloom on our vacation, we still enjoyed seeing them in their natural habitat. And maybe someday we’ll be able to return to Grand Cayman while more of the native orchids are blooming!

 

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