Guarianthe skinneri in a garden. Photo by Eduardo Libby

Orchids… forest or garden?


A few weeks every March my parents’ garden becomes an obligate stop for passersby: a mass of rose-lavender orchid flowers that we Costa Ricans love and call Guaria Morada is the cause.

One-day flower, a Sobralia species. Photo by Eduardo Libby
The Flor de un día (One-day flower) as it is called in Costa Rica is a Sobralia species.

The former technical name Cattleya skinneri was replaced in 2003 when the Central American Cattleyas were segregated from the genus and now it is called Guarianthe skinneri. I like the new name as we call these flowers “Guarias.” The earlier name was published by James Bateman in his 1839 book “Orchids of Mexico and Guatemala” to honor George Ure Skinner, a merchant that took care of sending numerous botanical specimens to Bateman in England for study and cultivation.

Here are some local orchids that I’ve found in the Costa Rican forests. You can always find orchids flowering throughout the year but sometimes the plants are hard to find because they are very small or are high among the trees. They are always a nice reward when you spot them.

Orchids on a tree branch in northern Costa Rica. Photo by Eduardo Libby.
Orchids on a tree branch in northern Costa Rica’s rainforest.


Orchid flower growing in deep shade. Photo by Eduardo Libby
A small, inconspicuous orchid flower growing in deep shade.


Guarianthe skinneri (Guaria Morada). Photo by Eduardo Libby
Guarianthe skinneri (Guaria Morada) is Costa Rica’s National Flower.


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