My recent vacation to Jamaica (and my trip to Puerto Rico last year) inspired me to write this post about the types of orchids that are native to several popular (mostly tropical, of course!) tourist destinations. If you’re planning a trip to any of these locations, see if you can spot some native orchids while you’re there! I’ve only been to three of these places so far, but I hope to visit each of them at some point in my lifetime—and you can be I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for wild orchids. These lists are far from comprehensive but will give you an idea of what types of orchids you can look out for in each place.
Approximately 300 orchid species are native to this Central American country whose national flower is the Black Orchid: the Prosthechea cochleata (formerly known as Encyclia cochleata). Orchids from a variety of other species can also be found growing wild in Belize: Bletia purpurea, Catasetum integerrimum, Encyclia radiata, Epidendrum ibaguense, Isochilus carnosiflorus, Lycaste aromatica, Maxillaria hedwigae, Mormolyca ringens, Myrmecophila tibicinis, Notylia barkeri, Oeceoclades maculata, Oncidium altissimum, Oncidium sphacelatum, Sobralia macrantha, Trigonidium egertonianum , and Vanilla planifolia.
There are at least 1300 orchid species that call Costa Rica home, and the national flower is also an orchid: Guarianthe skinneri of the Cattleya alliance (seen in the image below). The smallest orchid in the world, Platystele jungermannioids, can be found growing in Costa Rica. Other native orchids include Brassavola nodosa, Catasetum maculatum, Cynoches warscewiczii, Encyclia cordigera, Encyclia stellata, Epidendrum ciliare, Epidendrum piliferum, Epidendrum radicans, Epidendrum stamfordianum, Gongora maculata, Maxillaria, Oncidium carthagenese, Oncidium shroederanium, Pleurothallis cardiothallis, Psychopsis krameriana, and Stanhopea costaricensis.
This Caribbean nation claims about 300 native species of orchids, including but not limited to the following: Brassia caudata, Broughtonia domingensis, Cyrtopodium punctatum, Epidendrum anceps, Epidendrum ramosum, Epidendrum wrightii, Hispaniella henekenii, Lepanthopsis domingensis, Lepanthopsis glandulifera, Lepanthopsis moniliformis, Lepanthopsis stellaris, Oncidium arizajulianum, and Oncidium calochilum.
Many people associate Hawaii with orchids because of the floral necklaces often made of cut orchids known as leis. Ironically, there are only a few types of orchids that actually grow in Hawaii—possibly as few as THREE species! It’s believed there are so few native Hawaiian orchids due to the difficulty of seed migration across the oceans. The species known to grow in the wilds of Hawaii are: Anoectochilus sandvicensis, Liparis hawaiensis, and Platanthera holochila. These orchids grow in far-flung spots on the islands, so if you want to hunt for these rare gems you’ll be in for quite an adventure.
More than 200 species of orchids can be found growing in the wild on this Caribbean island. Bletia purpurea, Brassia caudata, Broughtonia sanguinea, Coelia triptera, Dendrophylax barrettiae, Dendrophylax filiformis, Dendrophylax lindenii (the Ghost Orchid immortalized in Susan Orlean’s book, The Orchid Thief), Elleanthus capitatus, Elleanthus longibracteatus, Encyclia oncidioides, Epidendrum jamaicense, Habenaria distans, Habenaria eustachya, Habenaria quinqueseta, Jacquiniella globosa, Jacquiniella teretifolia, Lepanthes ovalis, Maxillaria, Oncidium, Pleurothallis, Stellis and Vanilla.
This small Caribbean island is home to approximately 140 native orchid species. Prosthechea cochleata, of course, can be found on the island, along with specimens such as Epidendrum boricuarum, Epidendrum secundum, Lepanthes woodburyana, Maxillaria coccinea, Pleurothallis aristata, and Polystachya foliosa. With such a rich variety of orchids, visitors to Puerto Rico have their work cut out for them!
Have you seen any wild orchids in your travels to any of these places? What about other parts of the world? Obviously there are tens of thousands of orchid species worldwide, so there are vast opportunities for us orchid lovers to catch glimpses of our favorite flowers around the globe. No matter where you go, please document your wild orchid sightings by taking photographs only. Picking wild orchids is illegal and can endanger the delicate ecosystem surrounding them!