When we visited Machu Picchu, we stayed at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. The hotel has 372 different native orchid species in their natural habitat, the world record according to the American Orchid Society. Many things are said about orchids. They are extremely diverse, have colorful and fragrant blooms, are the most widespread family of flowering plant, and some have evolved bizarre ways to cross pollinate. There are between 21,950 to 26,049 currently accepted species including Vanilla (the genus of the vanilla plant). This is more than twice the number of bird species, and about four times the number of mammal species. The Andean cloud forest is a habitat which is home to a large diversity of orchids. Among the most significant sites from which to appreciate these stunning flowers is undoubtedly the Machu Picchu Natural Reserve, with a wide variety of native species and genus. Some of the most remarkable assembled at Inkaterra Machu Picchu are: the minuscule Lepanthes, Trichosalpinx and Stelis; some of the largest, like Phramipedium caudatum and Sobralia aff. setigera; and the fragrant Anguola virginalis, Lindley Ida locusta and Lycastemacorphylla.
At one time growing orchids was a hobby for the wealthy, requiring a greenhouse and attentive care. Today you can buy some orchids very inexpensively in your local stores. They are often sold with the other blooming plants you can enjoy and discard. But orchids are more than that, there are many, many kinds that can appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Some can be very easy to grow, almost weeds, and some will challenge the expert. The Wellington Botanic Gradens have a beautiful collection of both orchids and aquatic plants in their enclosed greenhouse. Since I love both orchids and water lilies, I thought I would share some pictures. I included the two together because they are both delicate flowers requiring a greenhouse.
During my visit to the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, I was struck by the beautiful collection of orchids and decided it was worthy of a post. It is pretty safe to say that there is no flower more widely coveted than the Orchid. With their delicate, sculptural beauty and historical rarity, orchids carry an unrivaled suggestion of refinement. The exotic flowers are now cultivated in a wide variety of colors and delicately shaped blossoms, making them beautiful both on their own and as an addition to arrangements, but they retain their association with very special occasions. Different cultures throughout history have believed in the healing, disease-fighting and protective properties of the orchid. In traditional Chinese medicine the orchid is used to help cure coughs and lung illnesses. The ancient Greeks associated it with virility, and the Aztecs drank a mixture of the vanilla orchid and chocolate to give them power and strength. One in ten flowering plants in the world are orchids and the Conservatory of Flowers has a nice collection of orchids including a renowned collection of Pleurothallid Orchids. I have attempted to group them by genus although some may be incorrectly grouped. Unfortunately, they are often not labeled in the Conservatory.