This month we welcomed Peter Johnson and his wife Sue who gave us an account of an orchid hunting trip to Ecuador. The tour was arranged by the O.S.B.G through Ecuagenera, the well-known Ecuadorian nursery. The geography of the country with its bisection from north to south by the Andes gives rise to contrasting ecozones, from the western coastal area to the cloud forests of the Andes and the Amazon basin rainforest in the east of the country, each with their own climate.
Starting in Quito the group travelled to Mindo through elevations from 1200 to 1800m above sea level. This cloud forest environment, with its temperatures of 60 – 75o F and constant rainfall is the perfect habitat for Maxillaria, Pleurothallis, Dracula, Lepanthes, Epidendrum and other cool growing species. Travelling on through Otavalo, a town famous for its textiles the genera found included Oncidiums Restrepias and Pleurothallids. Heading on to the lowlands of the north west of the country more orchids more orchids were seen such as Schomburgkia, Oncidium and Catasetum.
The tour then travelled over the Andes reaching 4000m altitude before descending on the Amazon side to the town of Baeza and then on to Puyu. This hot and humid area is to many warm growing genera including Macroclinium, Sobralia Rodriguezia and Maxillaria. Leaving Puyo they travelled on through areas home to Pragmipedium lindenii, via Mendez and on to Gualaceo, the location of the Ecuagenera main nursery. The tour concluded with a drive through the Cajas National park on the way to Guayaaquil before returning to Quito for the journey back to England.
Peter’s talk was illustrated with some superb images, not only of the orchids, but also of the towns and countryside through which they travelled. This was by bus on roads that at times would make most drivers shudder. Obviously this was a great experience that I’m sure many of us would like to follow.