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Western Andes Cloud Forest: A very special place

The cloud forests of Colombia’s Western Andes are a very special place for biodiversity, especially when it comes to orchids. The climate here is ideal for a wide variety of tropical plants, with mountain peaks enveloped by the mist that forms when warm air meets chillier mountain currents. Its remoteness also make it an ideal location to discover new species.

These forests are home to over 200 species of orchids in all forms and sizes, from miniature Andinia, Stelis and Lepanthes, to larger Masdevallia, Maxillaria and Dracula. They are also home to cold species of  Brugmansia including B. vulcanicola and B. sanguinea, and B. arborea and hybrids of these. 


A new orchid variety was found in June 2020 in the Western Cordillera of Colombia. 

As anyone who has read The Orchid Thief knows, it is amazing that any species of orchid has escaped discovery in a region of Colombia that has been scoured for  orchids since the Victorian orchid craze. Perhaps it was because this new orchid species is endemic to a small area in the Western Cordillera of Colombia that it had escaped the notice of obsessed orchid collectors. In total, it’s Area of Occupancy is no more than 500 km2 (193 square miles), a virtual needle in the haystack of the Andes Mountains.

It could be that a variety of Brugmansia or possibly even species has also gone unnoticed due to a hidden endemic pockets of the cloud forests of the Andes. 

Sadly, although newly discovered, Dracula irmelinae is already Endangered (EN) according to criteria established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, due to habitat loss in the area. 

By supporting charities, like, we can all help to protect these vulnerable habitats which hold a rich diversity of life and we can find more undiscovered plant species! 

In 2015 OCA raised $48,000 that was matched by RainForest Trust to enable purchase of 324 acres for a new reserve in Ecuador. The reserve will be managed by the Ecominga Foundation. The reserve is near the town of Chical, which in turn is on the border with Colombia on the west slope of the Andes. Threats to the area include road building, conversion to agriculture, and plant collection. Protection for the area is urgently needed.

Exotic Earth Plants will be supporting Orchid Conservation Alliance and Ecominga Foundation by joining as a Patron Member which enables the purchase of half an acre of orchid-rich habitat in the tropics.

Please consider supporting the Orchid Conservation Alliance or RainForest Trust to help support and save these precious habitats.

Exotic Earth Plants would like to thank customers for their support in purchasing plants to assist with the above. 

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