Colombia’s Orchids for Peace

Colombia is a land of orchids, home to over 4000 native species. Cattleya trianae is the beloved national flower. Sadly, the country has suffered decades of violence and political instability. A fragile peace accord has started to heal the nation. Now, Colombians like María Luisa Hincapié and her family are hoping that orchids can help to keep the peace. They’ve been growing a “Forest of Orchids,” restoring part of a denuded tropical jungle.

When María Luisa’s family bought the land in 2001, it had been scraped clean of any vegetation. The was soil dry and impoverished due to overgrazing. Since then, her family has done the work of restoring the native vegetation of the mountainside by planting a native orchid reserve—part of their shared vision to change the story of Colombia from one of violence and destruction to one of restoration and healing. With orchids.

As they’ve replanted the forest, the area has regenerated. Insects and animals have returned. The family has propagated native orchid varieties, and returned them to the wild. Many of these orchids are endangered, facing the perils of habitat destruction, illegal trafficking, shrinking numbers of pollinators, and climate change. The Hincapiés have already saved some orchids from extinction, and discovered new species. For this family of orchid addicts, it’s a labor of love to save these magnificent flowers, and to save their country, too. As I’ve blogged about before, there are others in Colombia working towards the same goals. The hashtag #orquideasparalapaz (orchids for peace) is being used to help promote their cause.

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