Eddie, the Panamanian KTM adventurer, told me a few weeks ago about an orchid nursery on the outskirts of Cerro Punta, the highest village in Panama, at 6500 feet.
It’s called Finca Dracula, after a species of orchid. But that may be a cover story for something more sinister, we hope. Lucinda says to me ‘why don’t we go through Romania next year and do some blogs on Vampire hunting?’
Finca Dracula is one of the top ten orchid collections in the world and the largest in Central America.
I’m partial to species collections, so off we went first thing this morning, further up into the mountains.
Here’s a field trip sort-of post, for fun. Up we go
Over a river, the water gin-clear, making that vital mountain sound we’re so familiar with back home
Expertly laid out plots on the hillsides
To the village of Cerro Punta
And then rode around looking for a hint and saw this painted in blood red
It was pointing up this road, loose rock as it got steep for a few hundred yards into the trees. Stand on the pegs and give it huge gas! The local kids like this behaviour, so do some of the moms, but the dads don’t, so no stopping or falling allowed
A purr of gas over a mini jump because it’s a good day and it’s through this gate
Park in the courtyard. No-one around, as usual. Except Dracula, probably right behind that tree to the left I thought. ‘Except it’s daylight’ Lucinda said
About 75 feet through a garden to the nursery
Set against the hillside
Into this covered area
There’s absolutely no-one here. ‘That’s because it’s daylight, as I said before’ Lucinda says. We wander around, maybe 15 minutes later we bump into a young girl (very pale) and we ask ‘cerrado?‘. She smiles and says no. So off we go behind this door
To a general orchid display. My orchid knowledge isn’t that hot. I’ve only kept them on-and-off over the years as it’s not fair on them without the proper environment
But right away we come across a table of Masdavallia, which I have kept, because their beauty is more subtle than the stereotypical hospital-visit Odontoglossom types
Many species, some very small
Here, I’m guessing, is the Dracula orchid
A good yellow spray
And, I guess for the tourists, this unimpressive type
This little fellow was cheerful
Running the length of a wall they’d hung small pots
I’m generally familiar in a casual way with much of what I’d seen, but then I saw something which took my breathe away. A display of incredibly tiny orchids. The flowers on this specimen are only about 3mm tall across and the whole plant structure was fascinating
Even smaller, this whole plant is a couple of inches across
Many members of the same family on the wall. Look at this heartbreaker below. Notice how the flower and leaf have a single common stem, designed for the leaf to present the flower as it does.
So I’ve got tons of pics to research later as I don’t have any idea what I’m looking at.
Other than a labour of love and a collection, this is also a research centre and commercial operation. If you care to Google Finca Dracula you’ll see there are orchids here which sell for $5000 each. So it’s deadly serious, as any operation at the state-of-the-art is. I decide to wander behind the scenes.
The growing beds are totally professional. I would guess there are about ten buildings of ship-ready orchids of maybe 2000 square feet each. Noticed the sign a bit late
This room was very securely locked up. I’d guess this is where big-money buyers come and that display in the middle is maybe where you’d find a $5000 orchid
Behind the scenes, a whimsical propagation lab
A painted wall near a potting area
A pig in a pen. ‘Hey, he looks exactly like a 1200GS‘ Lucinda says. I say ‘Lucinda you know I have the GS. Stop with that’
I wander around for an hour or so looking at the commercial aspects of the operation with respect.
Then there’s a nature walk type thing going into the forest that’s quite pretty
I’m thinking that it’s been a great day and I’d better head back before the clouds explode, and it’s back to Volcan, which is a dive. This is the main intersection