Jamaican Orchids

Jamaica has a wide variety of exotic orchids. For more facts & information about finding these varied orchid species in the wild read our guide…

Jamaica is a tropical garden full of flowers, plants and trees found nowhere else in the world. There are over 200 species of orchid which grow naturally on the island and 73 of those species are found only in Jamaica. The orchid seeds or spores are as small as dust and the original orchid seeds were carried on the wind from Africa. Even today, the sky in Jamaica is sometimes filled with a reddish haze which is actually sand carried on the wind from the Sahara.

Facts About Jamaican Orchids

Since Jamaica is a tropical climate, most of the orchids grow either along the trunks and limbs of hardwood trees or in the crooks of trees and between rocks and in crevices. Tree growing orchids extract most of their nutrients from the rain, air and decaying vegetation while those which grow in tree crooks and rock crevices extract their nutrients from decaying mosses. Terrestrial orchids are more common in temperate rather than tropical climates and they receive their nutrients from a special type of fungus. Orchids depend on insects for pollination and they are the most diverse group of flowering plants in the world. Jamaican orchids have been the subject of numerous painters and photographers with their variety and beautiful coloration.

Sizes and Colors of Jamaican Orchids

Some of the most beautiful Jamaican orchids are not easy to see without magnification because of their tiny size. The different species of orchids in Jamaica range from large to small in single and multiple colors with different petal configurations.  All orchids have a column in the flower which is where the reproductive functions are located. The only orchid with commercial agricultural value is the vanilla orchid which originated in Mexico and is now primarily cultivated in Madagascar. Contrary to popular belief, orchids are not parasites and use trees only for support, not for nutrients. Although Jamaica provides exceptionally good conditions for orchids, different varieties are found growing on every continent except Antarctica, with two varieties that grow within the attic circle.

Cultivation of Jamaican Orchids

There is no large scale cultivation of any species of Jamaican orchid, although they are popular with gardeners and are grown on a small scale. Many varieties of orchid are difficult to cultivate and fairly labor intensive requiring hand pollination. It is know that the Jamaican fruit bat pollinates vanilla orchids and may also pollinate other species in the wild but most pollination is done by insects like bees and butterflies. The habitat of many Jamaican orchids is shrinking due to farming and mining and some varieties are in danger of disappearing.

Jamaica has possibly the most varied population of orchids in the world with over 200 species growing on this small island. Most of the orchids grow in the wild and are not cultivated for gardens or commercial purposes. Orchid enthusiasts owe it to themselves to visit Jamaica to see these exquisite flowers in their natural environment.

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