cuban orchids






Yunelis Perez Castro

Licenciate in Biology, Yunelis graduated in the Biology Faculty of the University of Havana in 2003. Since this time she has been part of the investigative group at the Jardín Botánico Orquideario Soroa, where she has been working on the biotechnology of orchids. She has participated in various workshops and scientific events concerning the ecology of orchids. At present she is studying for her Masters in Agroecology and Agroecology at the University of Pinar del Río.

Esther Liliam Santa Cruz Cabrera

Licenciate in Sociocultural Studies, Lily graduated at la Sede Municipal Candelaria of the University of Pinar del Río. She has been working in the Jardín Botánico Orquideario Soroa since 1994 in the orchid laboratory, where she has been working with both native and exotic species. She has partipated in various scientific events and has developed techniques for use in the living collections and in the herbarium.

El Jardín Botánico Orquidario Soroa

With around three hundred species, including a number of endemics, Cuban orchids form an important component of the broader Caribbean flora, and have connections both with those of Meso-America and North America.

90 kilometres west of Havana, el Jardín Botánico Orquideario Soroa (JBOS) nestles on the side of a valley in the mountains of Cuba’s Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve. Originally called ‘Rancho Pilila’, Orquideario Soroa was built by Don Tomás Felipe Camacho (1886-1961). In addition to the living collections, Camacho assembled a library specialising in orchids and other ornamental plants: still considered to be the richest, most varied and up-to-date in the country. Amongst more recent works are preserved old documents, volumes dating back to the 19th century and registers of cultivated orchids prepared by Camacho himself.

Under the guidance of Rolando Pérez Márquez, its current Scientific Director, the Garden has developed an interdisciplinary approach to study of Cuban native orchids. As just one example, the biology of Brassia caudata, is being studied with a view to possible re-introduction and augmentation of naturally occurring populations. The project involves the monitoring of populations in the wild; unravelling the individual phenology of the species; collection of seeds from mature fruits; raising seedlings under laboratory conditions; and learning about the process of adaptation of plantlets after they have been transplanted into the wild. Plants are illustrated by José Bocourt Vigil, the garden’s resident artist.

Unusually for a botanical garden, much emphasis is placed on the study of orchid pests and diseases, and their control. This has resulted in the publication of many papers both in Cuban and in international journals. The exchange of information, education in its broadest terms, is an important function of botanical gardens. In addition to hosting regular international orchid workshops aimed at the scientific community, Orquideario Soroa also generates income by running one week orchid courses for orchid aficionados in both Spanish and in English.

Notes on some Cuban orchid species to be stored as part of OSSSU

Basiphyllaea wrightii (Griseb.) Nir
A terrestrial species reaching around 60 cm in height. Inflorescence terminal with greenish yellow flowers with a red lip. It is a local endemic which grows in vegetación de cuabales. It can be found in a very restricted area in the Province of Pinar del Río.

Bletia antillana M. A. Díaz and Sosa
Terrestrial plants with pseudobulbs. The inflorescence is a raceme up to 20-25 cm long which can produce up to 10 flowers. It is found in very humid zones, is endemic and grows in the mountainous areas in the north of the provinces of Holguín and Guantánamo.

Brassia caudata (Linnaeus) Newmann
Plants epiphytic, with pseudobulbs. The lateral inflorescence reaches 25 cm in length. It is found in the mountain lowlands and on some occasions can be found growing at more than 500 metres above sea level in shady humid conditions.

Broughtonia cubensis (Lindley) Cogniaux
One of the project flagship species, the plants are epiphytic with pseudobulbs. The inflorescence is a scape which can reach up to 25 cm in length and can carry up to ten flowers. This endemic species is one of the most endangered and few examples remain in the wild. Today it is only known from a few examples in the Province of Pinar del Río.

Broughtonia ortgiesiana (Reichembach f.) Cogniaux
Epiphtic plants with pseudobulbs up to 60 cm high. The terminal inflorescence can carry more than ten flowers. An endemic species which grows on the plains and at low elevations.

Encyclia bipapularis (Reichenbach f.) Acuna
Plants epiphytic with ovoid grooved pseudobulbos. Terminal inflorescence 5-15 cm in length. Endemic species that is distributed in the the mountainous zones of the west of the country.

Encyclia bocourtii Mújica and Pupulin
Plants epiphytic about 60 cm high, with pseudobulbs. Inflorescence up to 50 cm in length. Endemic species which grows Guanahacabibes Peninsula on the westernmost tip of the island, this being the only known population.

Encyclia brevifolia
Plants epiphytic, very similar to Encyclia phoenicea but with some differences in anatomy. Endemic species that grows in lowland areas, relatively close to the coast.

Encyclia cajalbanensis Mújica, Bocourt and Pupulin
Plants epiphytic or lithophytic up to 45 cm high in flower. Inflorescence simple up to 60 cm long. Endemic, abundant in los cuabales on the southern slopes of the meseta de Cajálbana, Pinar del Río. This is the only known population.

Encyclia oxypetala (Lindley) Acuna
Epiphytic plants with pseudobulbs around 70 cm high. The terminal inflorescence is 50 cm long and may carry up to 20 flowers. Endemic species, abundant in cuabales y charrascales in open vegetation.

Encyclia phoenicea (Lindley) Neumann
One of the project flagship species, the plants are epiphytic and have pseudobulbs. The terminal inflorescence reaches up to 80 cm in length. The flowers are very variable in colour and form. An endemic species that grows all over the island. Because of the aroma of the flowers it is known as the “chocolate orchid”..

Oncidium ensatum Lindley
Plants terrestrial or epiphytic, with pseudobulbss. The inflorescence is notably large, up to 2 metres in length.. It is the only species of this genus found in Cuba, growing in the lowlands mainly in the central region of the island.

Tetramicra eulophiae Reichenbach f.
Plants terrestrial, up to 70 cm high. The inflorescence reaches up to 60 cm in height, generally with 10-15 flowers. Endemic species that is found in open areas of pine, carrascales y cuabales.

Tolumnia guibertiana (Richard) Braem
Plants epiphytic, small. Inflorescence approximately 20 cm long with small yellow flowers with a prominent labellum. An endemic species which form abundant populations on the coast, mainly on shrubs.

Tolumnia lemoniana (Lindley) Braem
Epiphytic plants with flattened pseudobulbs comprimidos. Inflorescence lateral which can have up to ten flowers. It can be found in the coastal swamps throughout the country.


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