The Richest Country in Orchids in the World: Colombia

Did you know that Colombia is very rich in orchids? Not only it is very rich, but it is the richest country in the world in orchids with 274 genera, and 4270 species. Of these, around 1572 species of orchids are unique and exclusive to Colombia. However, this is a small number.

Epidendrum melinanthum Schltr.

Given their size and taxonomic complexity, it is difficult to have an accurate estimate of the number of species of orchids that exist not only in Colombia, but in the entire world.

Some botanists estimate that there are between 15,000 and 22,500 species of orchids, while others consider that there are as many as 30,000 to 35,000 species of orchids in the world.

Orchids in Colombia

In Colombia, each natural region has its own richness and diversity of orchids: 2542 species in the Andes, 533 species in the Pacific, 143 species in the Orinoco, and around 130 species distributed between the Amazon and the Colombian Caribbean regions.

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Additionally, Colombia’s 42 National Natural Parks have 819 orchid species, representing a quarter of the total registered in the country.

Among the national natural parks of Colombia, the greatest representation of the total endemic and threatened species of orchids is found in the: National Park Las Orquídeas in Antioquia, Tatamá in Risaralda, Los Farallones de Cali in Valle del Cauca, Puracé in Cauca, Chingaza in Cundinamarca, and Munchique in Cauca.

Moreover, the departments (Colombian states) with the largest number of orchid species are Antioquia, Chocó, Cundinamarca, Cauca, and Valle del Cauca.

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Endemic Orchids of Colombia

In Colombia, 36.8% of the country’s total orchid species are endemic. Most of the endemic species are distributed in very few genera, as about half belong to only five genera.

Thus, Lepanthes, with 239 species, is the orchid genus with more endemism in Colombia, grouping 15% of the species in this category. Other genera with high richness of endemic species are Epidendrum (186 spp.), Stelis (114 spp.), Pleurothallis (106 spp.), and Masdevallia (99 spp.).

The Andean region is the area with the highest number of endemic orchid species in the country with a total of 944, representing 78% of the endemic species registered for Colombia. It is followed by the Pacific region with 98. The Orinoco region has the fewest orchids native to Colombia with 15 species.

Why are there so many Orchids in Colombia?

The high diversity of orchids found in Colombia is attributed to the great variety of habitats generated by Colombia’s broken and discontinuous topography, which gives rise to strong altitudinal and climatic gradients.

As incredible as it may seem, in Colombia it is possible to find trees that can hold more orchid species than an entire forest in a country with seasons.

On the other hand, the genera with the most orchid species in Colombia are Epidendrum, Lepanthes, Stelis, and Pleurothallis.

Importance of Orchids

The orchid family (Orchidaceae), is permanently admired for its colors, smells, shapes, textures, and sizes. Also, for their beauty, their uses, the way they grow, and the contribution they make to the ecosystems.

Ornamental, medicinal, edible, aromatic, aphrodisiac, and ritual uses are some of the best-known use options for orchids since ancient times. In addition, they also play a key ecological role in the functioning of ecosystems as well as an indicator of their state of conservation.

Cattleya trianae. This flower can be seen at Hacienda Combia. Ph. ©Mario Carvajal – Flickr

As a curious fact, and even without knowing the importance of orchids for the country’s biodiversity, in 1936 the Cattleya trianae (endangered) orchid was named Colombia’s national flower emblem.

Also, notable Colombian architects have used these plants as an important element in their works.

Curious Facts about Orchids

  1. Orchids can be terrestrial, and they can also grow on many types of substrates. Most are epiphytes, meaning that they grow on trees or other structures such as power lines, telephone lines, or roofs.
  2. It is estimated that 93% of tropical orchid species are epiphytes and that many of the terrestrial species grow in lowland forest areas, which are characterized by less illuminated environments, higher humidity, and soils rich in organic matter.
  3. The orchids present in their roots a specialization known as “velamen”. This structure works like a sponge, allowing the plant to quickly absorb moisture from the environment. For this reason, the roots of the orchids remain almost always uncovered, looking for good aeration.
  4. The variety in sizes, shapes, colors, and aromas of its flowers respond to its close relationship with pollinators, thus ensuring the loyalty of its visitors.
  5. Its fruit is a capsule that opens naturally and exposes thousands of seeds that are dispersed in the wind.
  6. The seeds can also withstand long periods of freezing and drought without losing their germination capacity.
  7. Most orchid roots have a strong relationship with fungi (mycorrhizae), which is fundamental for seed germination and nutrient absorption.
  8. Rare orchids are worth more than gold worldwide. It is estimated that the global orchid trade is worth at least $6 billion.
Miniature Orchid at Finca Romelia Colors of Life

Where to find Orchids in Colombia


There are many orchid farmers in Colombia. The main orchid crops are in Antioquia, Boyacá, Caldas, Cauca, Cundinamarca, Huila, Putumayo, Quindío, Risaralda and Valle del Cauca.

Orchids Fairs and Shows

There are also many events such as exhibitions and fairs. The main ones are the Orchid Show in Medellin, during the Flower Fair, and held at the Medellin’s Botanical Garden.

The second event is the Annual National Orchid Exposition at the José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden in Bogotá.

Orchids Tours

Some of the destinations where you can do orchid tours in Colombia are:

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Discover the amazing beauty of orchids and at the same time, the biodiversity of a unique destination like Colombia. Book your trip with us!


About the author

Sara Colmenares

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.