Posted by: luisabaldwin | April 18, 2011





Panama claims 950 varieties of orchids

Photography courtesy of Luisa Baldwin © all rights reserved


This year, my friend Sally Foulke and I decided to visit the Boquete fairgrounds for the Orchid Festival.  By the way, this is the fifteenth year this annual event has been held and it has turned out to be a big event.

Delicate beauty

The Orchid Society of Panama ranks these exotic flowers and a winner emerges.  It’s a serious business!

Some people claim that there are 3,000 different species of orchids, which grow in Panama.  However, Panama has laid official claim to at least 950 native orchid species.  Many of these species can be found in the western portion of Chiriqui Province or – right in our own back yard as Boquete lies in the Province of Chiriqui back in the tropical jungles where orchids grow.

Many varieties can also be found in Costa Rica.

This beauty will put a smile on every day!

Of course, different species bloom at different times of the year so, although we saw many varieties, we couldn’t catch every one. According to, “Experts from the Taiwan Technical Mission in Panama have successfully helped the Central American country bring back its endangered orchid species, “the Espiritus Santo”  from the brink of extinction.” Armed with this knowledge we had to see one.  After searching, we thought we did find one Espiritus Santo blooming in the display hall although it had more yellow in it than the variety we had seen pictured.  Encouraged, we went on a hunt for one to buy.

The orchid of Panama, the "Espiritus Sanctus" Photograph courtesy of

Who wouldn’t?  This orchid is different!  Rather than the delicate leaves, these blooms are thick and look very moist, almost rubbery in texture.  The picture on your left comes from  since we didn’t have a flowering example to show you.  This unusual orchid’s center is quite beautiful, with delicate red-spotted “wings”.  There was only one plant for sale and Sally got it. However, it wasn’t in bloom.  Never the less she anxiously reached in her wallet and came home with anticipation of a future bloom from this rare and exotic once almost extinct orchid.

For those of you who are orchid aficionados, the must-have in your library is the “Field Guide to the Orchids of Costa Rica and Panama” by Robert L. Dressler.  You can order it from

Cameras in hand, we were in search of some of the rare exotic displays and delights for the eyes.  Growing orchids in the tropical jungles of Panama is easy and many ex-pats as well as Panamanians maintain good collections as a hobby.  Many just grow naturally on trees.  Boquetenos and folks from the surrounding areas wait patiently to see the beautiful displays of rare and exotic orchids and boy, this fair is definitely the one-stop venue.

Hmmm - Happy!

Little shops selling their wares abounded everywhere on the fairgrounds and food concessions selling everything from fruit “battidos” (shakes) to popcorn to Panamanian cuisine were in abundance. When the weekend comes around, the fairgrounds will be swarming with people and the tour busses from David and other parts will descend en mass on the tiny town of Boquete.  It will be a festive time for all as the joyful Panamanians love to have fun and a good party.

The delightful laugher of children momentarily drew our attention away from the orchids and we wandered over to the source of the joyous sounds.

A school day outing for the children

We were lucky to catch a school tour with young children converging on the simple and bright carousal rides that had been set up for them.

Everybody was itching for a seat on the ride

So excited were they that when the ride was ready to take on a new batch of children, fighting for a seat became the order of the day.  Go figure!  It would take a whole lot more to get our children back in the good old USA this excited. This was a big deal.  Simple pleasures, happy faces, and joyful laughter were a treat for our eyes and ears.

Wouldnt you be excited to ride with this?

But back to those orchids and our photographic mission.  Here, for your viewing pleasures, are some of the better pictures I captured. I hope your eyes enjoy the fruits of this happy mission.


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