Peru features 84 of the 103 biodiversity zones found on earth, so it has a wide variety of habitats where orchids grow. More than 3,000 of the 30,000 known orchid species grow in Peru, surpassing the number of native species found in both Colombia and Ecuador, countries known for their orchids. Interestingly, orchids have been highly prized by Peruvian cultures for thousands of years, by both pre-Inca and Incan peoples. This drawing is taken from Guaman Poma's illustrated chronicle, Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno of 1615 which was published when he was an old man.
Even with 3,000 species, it’s estimated that only about 50% of Peruvian orchid species have been discovered. The most important recent discoveries have been Phragmipedium peruvianum (kovachii) in 2002 and Phragmipedium besseae in 1981, both in the Moyobamba area in northern Peru.
The native orchids of Peru represent some of nature's most beautiful expressions, as revealed through shape, color, texture, fragrance and adaptation to diverse habitats.
Orchids grow in the high tropical jungles on the eastern slopes of the Andes in eastern Peru and in the cloud forest regions throughout the Andean area.
In the eastern area of Amazonas, the striking orchids of the Masdevalia genus thrive. In the Cordillera Blanca mountain range of Ancash, interesting varieties of native orchids, including the wakanku (Masdevalia amabilis) can also be seen. The Machu Picchu Sanctuary is home to more than 300 orchid varieties including the wakanki (Masdevalia vetchiana), and wiñaywayna (Epidendrum secundum) which are the most beautiful of these varieties.
(We have designed a very beautiful tour complete with biologist guides and a short Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu in order to gain an in-depth appreciation of these beautiful flowering plants. See the special interest link to orchid tours to Peru.)
Here is a list of the locations in Peru where the different orchids are found.
Machu Picchu Sanctuary
The estimates for diversity within the sanctuary reach 200 species. Among the species that can be found are Aa, Epidendrum, Masdevallia, Maxillaria, Oncidium, Odontoglossum, Phagminpedium and the Sobralia.
Tambopata Candamo Reserved Zone (Only by request:)
Studies do not show significant diversity but do include some interesting species of the genera Cataseum, Mormodes, Psychopsis
Huascaran National Park
The National Park has High Andean species that have been studied recently. One of the most representative species is the Masdevalia amabilis, which grows in rocky mountain slopes. Other genera are: Aa, Altenasteinia, Epidendrum, Stelis and Trichocerus.
Land of Orchids (also Chachapoyas is possible, beautiful, but remote)
The watershed of the Mayo river (Department of San Martin) is known as the land of orchids. There are great numbers of species such as Anguloa, Brassia, Cataseum, Cattleya, Bollea, Coryanthes, Lycaste, Masdevallia and many more. The most representative is the Cattleya, locally known as "Golondrina".
Loreto and Ucayali (beautiful, but remote)
Amazon lowlands have not much diversity. The great attractions are the species of the genus: Caryanthes, Gongora, Maxillaria, Mormodes and Cataseum.
Podocarpus Forests in Cajamarca
The high Amazon jungle is known for the podocarpus forests, the forest with the highest number of orchids. Many are quite exotic varieties such as the Masdevalia setacea, Masdevalia glandulosa and Lycaste denninginia.
The Valley of Orchids (beautiful, not far from Lima)
The Valley of Chanchamayo (Department of Junin) is a fantastic place for orchid finds, but has been degraded. Many believe the valley needs rules to protect these important natural resources. The majority of orchid genera in Peru are found in this valley.
Because orchid habitats are also home for many exotic bird species we have tours that focus on both orchids and birds.
Peru is home to an impressive number of species of birds that vary from residents, that stay all year around, to breeding birds, that spend a good part of the growing season in Peru to raise their young, migrants who pass through Peru with the seasons, to wintering birds who like to spend a good part of the winter in Peru to escape colder conditions up north. While many species of birds are relatively common as they are part of the ecosystems of the state, it is always a thrill to stumble upon a rare bird or vagrant, that does not really form part of any the Peru ecosystems. Maybe it got lost during its travels between its summer and winter residence or it got displaced by bad weather.
Among the species of the checklist of the birds of Peru you can find waterfowl and wading birds, a large suite of song birds, raptors, game birds, swifts and nighthawks, etc., many of which occupy several ecosystems simultaneously, as they fly to and from forests, meadows, shorelines of waters, cities and and urban green spaces.
Peru possesses an extraordinary ornithological diversity. New species are continually being discovered every year in its cloud-forests and Amazon jungle, as well as in its rugged mountains and inter-Andean valleys. At last count, there were 1710 registered species (close to 20% of the world's total), of which more than 300 are endemic. Furthermore, Peru holds the record for the most species in a single place (650 in the area surrounding the Explorer's Inn lodge, located in the jungle of Tambopata) and the record for the highest number of species seen in a single day (361 in the area surrounding the Biological Station of Cocha Cashu, in Manu).
Our Birding and Orchid Tours
For flower lovers, botanists, or travelers who would enjoy unique Peruvian experiences, our specialized tours focusing on orchids offer the opportunity to see why Peruvians have prized their orchids for thousands of years. Coming upon rare specimens growing in the wild on magnificent mountainsides in the cool crisp high-altitude air with the Peruvian sun dancing off the flowers, is truly a breathtaking experience.
Please click here to learn about our orchid/bird tours to Peru.
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See Peru's Birds and Orchids with an Expert
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