Costa Rica has about 1200 species of orchids, more than any other Central American country and many more await discovery. Unlike temperate orchids, the vast majority of tropical species are epiphytes. They can be found from the shoreline to the tops of the highest mountains, but they grow in the greatest profusion in the cloud forest, where wind blown mist and frequent rain provide a perfect environment. Though many orchids are large and impressive, the majority are miniatures with flowers only a few millimeters across. Bees, wasps and flies,pollinate most orchids but hummingbirds pollinate a few cloud forest species. Here a Green Mountain Violet-ear is visiting Elleanthus robustus. It has learned that the white flowers are the ones that are producing nectar (and are receptive to pollinators.)
Epiphytes grow profusely in the rain or cloud forest, where abundant rain and mist carried on the wind create year round optimum conditions for their growth. Moss, ferns and flowering plants grow on the trunks and branches of the trees in an incredible mixture of colors and shapes. In the majority of plant families there are epiphytes, but they are especially abundant in the orchid, bromeliad and gesnereaceas families. The Guaria Morada, Costa Rica's national flower for the last sixty five years is an orchid species with large, showy flowers, is frequently used to develop new hybrid species.
What care do orchids require?
The main steps in caring for orchids, especially those cultivated in flowerpots are the following:
Orchids need abundant light, but not in direct sunlight. This is necessary for producing abundant and high quality blooms.
Water the plants moderately to avoid rotting the roots.
Fertilize more or less every two weeks with a diluted fertilizer to avoid damaging the roots.
Control insects and avoid damages caused by funguses and bacteria. There are many effective insecticides, fungicides and antibiotics. Some diseases are caused by viruses which have no cure. It is best to destroy the plants that are infected with a virus.
The bark and other plants such as male ferns that are in the flowerpot should be in good condition.
For more information, visit the Costa Rican Association of Orchidology
The Monteverde Orchid Garden
Orchid Garden - Monteverde - Costa Rica
The Monteverde orchid garden has a large collection of orchids, we have more than 425 different species. Each species is identified with its scientific name next to it. In the collection you can find species that are endemic to Monteverde and a collection of miniature orchids including the smallest one in the world (Platystele jungermanniodes) - about the size of a pinhead. We offer guided walks in English and Spanish, tours can last between 25 and 40 minutes.
Open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Orchid Garden you will find 100 meter east of Banco Nacional, downtown Santa Elena
Lankester Botanical Garden 4 km along road from Cartago to Paraíso, 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m., $5.00, discounts for students Phone: 2552-3247, www.jardinbotanicolankester.org
Wilson Botanical Gardens Las Cruces, 5 km south of San Vito, Southern Zone 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., $10.00, $8.00 residents Phone: 2524-0628
Jardín de Guarias Cocalera, 2 km from center of Palmares 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., $2.00, $1.00 residents Phone: 2452-0091
Bosque de Paz Private 1.000 hectare reserve linking Poás Volcano National Park with Juan Castro Blanco National Park, Bajos del Toro, 14 km from Zarcero 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., $35.00 including lunch, Phone: 2234-6676, www.bosquedepaz.com
Monteverde Orchid Garden 200 m east of Nacional Bank in Santa Elena 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., $7.00, students $5.00 Phone: 2645-5308
Swiss Hotel Miramontes, Monteverde 1 km northwest of Santa Elena center, road to Tilarán Private collection of 380 different orchids, $5.00, students $4.00, Hotel guest free Phone: 2645-5152
Essential reading "Field Guide to the Orchids of Costa Rica and Panama" by Robert Dressler (Constock Publishing, 1993)