The orchid is Colombia’s national flower, and some would say with good reason as this South American country has the largest number of orchids in the world.
There are four-thousand different species and more than 1,500 of them can only be found here.
Pablo Poveda, the owner of Bogotá Nursery Orquiyoli, knows this better than anyone.
For 40 years, he traveled the country helping biologists identify and catalog wild orchids. Now, he cultivates thousands of varieties in his nursery in Bogota.
“We have three major mountain ranges, and in each of them, there is a diverse range of orchids. And you see different types in different altitude, from sea level to three-thousand meters high,” says Poveda.
Poveda has already discovered three different species and has said he has had the honor of naming them.
Colombia grows more than 16 hundred varieties of flowers many of which are shipped to scores of countries around the world. The most popular export is the rose – which also is the most gifted blossom on Valentine’s Day.
According to government statistics, Colombia only exported about 76,000 of orchids in 2017 – a small fraction compared to the 1.3 billion plants and flowers exported – but orchid sellers, like Jenny Osorio, believe the rarity is what makes it a special gift. “It is a gift that is going to last longer. A flower can wither in eight days, these last and will bloom again the next year,” says Osorio.
Orchids can live up to 100 years. They bloom three to six months out of the year depending on the type.
“People who buy these want to give something more meaningful than the common rose or carnation. You can find it anywhere, but orchids are rare,” adds Poveda.
Certain species are close to extinction, and countries like Colombia regulate their trade.
Buyers should always make sure their orchid seller is certified.