Peru’s generous ecosystems provide the perfect environment for a vast number of orchids to flourish. Their conservation is critical as farming and deforestation reduce their living space.
It’s amazing that, of all the orchids found worldwide, 10% are in Peru, some of them growing at altitudes above 4,500 meters. How do we explain that Peru has such a natural privilege? The answer lies in the amount of ecosystems that this country has; to be more accurate, 84 of 117 life zones found around the planet and 28 of the 32 types of climates.
Orchids in the jungle
Nature has been so generous with Peru that it’s necessary to protect its biodiversity from the erroneous actions of mankind, as orchids are also threatened by illegal trade. The Manu National Park and Tambopata National Reserve are a shelter for hundreds of species of orchids in infinite forms, colors and sizes, all of which have a unique beauty that transforms the experience of exploring the jungle.
Some of the species that you will find, should you take the challenge of visiting the jungle, are the Epiphytics orchids (Cycnoches haagii), the terrestrial orchid (eruthrodes sp.) or a magnificent Epidendrum orchid.
The Cosñipata Valley within the Manu National Park is a perfect place for orchids to grow and reproduce. The forest is covered with clouds, of ghostly, humid and mysterious appearance, with weather conditions so unique that many species live only here and nowhere else in the world.
On his trip to Peru, the naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt mentioned this valley in his notes. At this point, between 2,500 and 3,000 meters above see level, the traveler is constantly surrounded by a dense fog. The rainfall (or water formation) might be the result of a strong electric tension that produces the green vegetation that is constantly renewed.
In the Cosñipata Valley, orchids depend on the male bee to fertilize and be fertilized by other orchids. Bees travel taking the pollen with them in order to capture as many different orchid fragrances. Only when they have impregnated with a strong perfume, the male bees attract the females, reproducing between them, demonstrating a mutual dependence of natural survival.
To see an orchid is to be amazed by its multiple forms, colors and fragrances, ultimately, one more beautiful than the other. The differences between them are explained in their need to adapt to a single type of bee in order to be pollinated.
Peru’s orchids threatened
The cloud forest is currently threatened by planting industrial and coca crops, reducing the orchids’ living area to a small space. The danger is that many species not yet discovered disappear long before they have been recorded in order to protect them.
Though the orchids attract visitors for its beauty, they also serve various purposes. In ancient times it was used in traditional medicine, in an effort for treating many diseases and ailments. The vanilla orchid is the most known in the commercial sector, both in perfumery and in gastronomy: in food and drinks with vanilla flavor.
Ecotourism programs allow access to conservation areas in Manu and Tambopata, and even when you can access orchids through trade, nothing is compared with the experience to see them in their own habitat, in the middle of the jungle accompanied by the charm and the magic of biodiversity.
Cover photo: Jairo Galvis Henao/Flickr
This article by Inkanatura Travel has been updated from its original publication on June 30, 2015.
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