The Orchid Bog

Jardin Botanico del Dr. Alfredo Barrera Maria (Yucatan) June 9, 2008

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About halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen is a botanical garden whose entrance faces the highway. Before heading to the airport to go home, we stopped at the gardens. It was a really hot and humid day and the gardens definitely require sunscreen and bug repellant. A few other tourists told us they saw spider monkeys in the gardens, but we never saw or heard them. Generally the gardens were very quiet, with few visitors, and a number of winding paths.

The most memorable section contained several dozen mounted orchids. There were a few tall tree houses… structures with tall narrow ladders that took you up off the forest floor and offered views of the ocean. Two tree houses were connected by a raised pathway. There were orchids tied to some of these trees as well as more at eye-level back on the ground.

I should also mention that mounting orchids is not just for aesthetic purposes. In the wild, some orchids are terrestrial, meaning they grow in the ground. Others are epiphytic, meaning they grow in trees. So when people mount orchids on pieces of wood or in baskets, it’s because they’re trying to imitate the orchid’s native habitat.


     Jardin Botanico - orchids                         Jardin Botanico - orchids


Jardin Botanico - orchids              Jardin Botanico - orchids


Sian Ka’an Orchids June 3, 2008

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This winter we vacationed in Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan. Our favorite part of the trip was exploring Sian Ka’an, a biosphere reserve on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. Our tour guides took us through the man-made canals of the mangrove swamp in a small boat. Lots of birds flew over the mangroves and nested in the trees, including blue herons, snowy egrets, and roseatte spoonbills.

Among the mangroves grow huge orchids and bromeliads. None of the orchids were blooming, but we could see the dried stalks of Myrmecophila rising several feet out of the swamp. The myrmecophilas often had ants crawling on them. The ants like to nest inside the hollow bulbs and help pollinate the orchid. We saw a few related specimens for sale at the POE this February and bought a small Schomburgkia. I’m not sure whether either of the flowering orchids below from the SF Conservatory of Flowers are related species. The myrmecophila petals are typically curly tendrils.



There were also small pink stream orchids growing along the edge of the canal in a few spots. We saw some fish and a stingray in the canal. People are rumored to have seen deer in the mangroves though it’s hard to imagine them finding their way there. We stopped at one point to check out a Mayan ruin which acted as an ancient toll booth according to our guide. They let us strap on life vests and float down the canal for awhile. It was an amazing experience and visually stunning!

At the outer edge of the lagoon and close to the road, we found a large number of orchids growing in the trees. Nate is pictured here surrounded by orchids. The photo on the right is of the mangroves and the yellow is the orchid pseudobulbs. The small mounted orchid below is our Schomburgkia at home.