ORCHIDS IN THE ECUADORIAN CLOUD FOREST
There are more than 4,200 documented species of orchids in Ecuador, with a number of species still not identified. In fact Ecuador boasts the highest orchid diversity of any country in the world, regardless of size. This great variety offers an excellent opportunity for orchid touring for both experienced enthusiasts and novices alike.
Orchids grow in all ecosystems throughout Ecuador, and some species range as high up as 4000 meters. The majority, however, are found in the humid cloud forests and rain forests of the country.
You may never get to see many of the wild species as they grow high up in the canopy of tall tropical trees. But one of the “must see” species is the rare and unusual Monkey Orchid or Monkey Faced Orchid. These wonderful orchids come from the south-eastern Ecuadorian and Peruvian cloud forests from elevations of 1000 to 2000 meters and as such not many people have seen them.
Its scientific name is Dracula simia, the last part nodding towards the fact that this remarkable orchid has more than a passing resemblance to a monkey’s face. The Dracula (genus) part of its name refers to the strange characteristic of the two long spurs of the sepals, reminiscent of the fangs of a certain Transylvanian count of film and fiction fame.
The Cloud Forests near Mindo, located just two hours from Quito, have an impressive variety of orchids. It straddles a very bio-diverse region along the western slopes of the Andes. The surrounding area is rich in primary cloud forests, and alive with rushing white-water streams and small towns and villages. The area contains more species of orchids than the entire continental U.S. Best times to visit are usually February and March, with July and August coming in a close second (depending on the weather).