Colombia is more than coffee and emeralds, but also the largest number of Orchid species in the world. According to Wikipedia there are between 21,950 and 26,049 identified species in the world. This profusion of orchid types, subtypes, hybrids and variations create a wonderland state for the orchid enthusiast who seeks to whet their palate with the botanical holiday. The orchid expo in Medellin is one of the largest orchid expositions in the country and attracts thousands of visitors for the public viewing of the orchid displays which are painstakingly constructed to exemplify the beauty and diversity of this unique flower. The expo is also part of a larger celebration in the city known in Spanish as “Feria de Flores” or “Flower Fair” which will attract 14,000 tourists to come and see the “silleteros” or “seat carriers” who will participate in massive parades of flower laden displays.
As a member of the Asociacion Risaraldense de Orquideologia (Risaralda Orchid Association), my participation starts on Monday when we arrive and unpack the flowers that have been shipped by the club members and then assemble them into beautiful displays that capture the culture and artistry of our region. Some of the members arrive early in the morning and work until late at night to finish their displays, displays that require teams of 5 or more people working in tandem to complete.
Tuesday starts the “juzgamiento” or judging. There are two layers of judging that happens here: the Colombian orchid judges and the American Orchid Society Judges who make their deliberations and give the awards. The orchids are judged on many factors: plant type or representation of the species, cultivation quality, best of show etc. Awards are given to Orchids who are exemplary examples of their species and/or type, orchids that are cultivated and groomed nicely, and honorable mentions for orchids that show a nice presentation that ranks above their peers but don’t quite make the cut for the aforementioned categories.
Tuesday night is party time as all the club members and local society come and share in a fancy dinner with cocktails as the awards are handed out and recognition given to the growers and enthusiasts who came to share in the orchid culture. It was a lovely event full of music, speeches from various orchid representatives and even the Mayor of Medellin was in attendance to pay homage to the orchid industry that drives the tourism to Medellin during “Feria de Flores.”
Orchid culture is not just limited to Colombia even though Colombia corners the market for overall exports and production. Orchids can be found in nature and gardens on all the continents, Singapore’s national flower is Vanda “Miss Joaquim,” Guarianthe skinneri is the national flower of Costa Rica, Cattleya mossiae is the Venezuelan national flower and of course Cattleya trianae is the national flower of Colombia. The people who grow and support orchids come from all over the world and range from commercial producers to hobbyist gardeners and garden enthusiasts like myself. I do not personally have my own greenhouse or garden but I have a couple plants that limp along in my downtown apartment and battle the pollution and lack of clean environment. Even so supporting and learning about orchids are a great way to enjoy the wonderful biodiversity of Colombia.
If you have read this article and you would like to become involved feel free to contact your local organization for meeting times and events.
American Orchid Society http://www.aos.org/ By email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (305) 740.2010
Sociedad Colombiana de Orquideologia http://www.sco.org.co/ By phone: (57) + (4) + 4448374