BOQUETE, Panama – The Flower of the Holy Spirit, a delicate orchid that with its ivory-white petals forms the figure of a dove and is the national emblem of Panama, stands out among the 500 species admired by the 30,000 visitors to the Panama Orchid Expo for its out-of-season blossoming.
Exposition coordinator Ezequiel Pitty told EFE that “there are many varieties that blossom around this date, but because of climate change, many species have altered their time of flowering,” which perfumes the entire expo.
“Here we have the national flower of Panama and we’re surprised that it’s flowering now because that usually happens in August and September,” he said.
The expo opened last Thursday in the tourist district of Boquete, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Panama City in the Panamanian mountains near Costa Rica.
The Flower of the Holy Spirit (Peristeria elata), proclaimed Panama’s national flower on Oct. 21, 1980, is being exhibited at the 31st Orchid Expo, where among the more than 500 orchids on show are 25 native varieties, 25 hybrids and another 25 species from other Latin American countries.
The national flower of Panama is so close to extinction that technicians from Taiwan several years ago developed a program for its recovery, while the authorities have ruled it can only be used for exhibition, not for sale.
According to experts, its habitat is the very humid mountain woodlands on Mount Gaital in the Anton Valley, where it grows on mossy tree trunks at some 1,100 meters (3,600 feet) above sea level, some 100 kilometers west of the capital.
This orchid is so delicate that it cannot survive on drinking water because it contains chlorine, only rainwater.
A group of orchid experts were charged with judging the different species in order to award prizes to the best, which for their unusual shapes and colors attracted their attention, Reynaldo Serracin, chairman of the board of the Flowers and Coffee Fair, told EFE.
“We bring international judges for the occasion, and this year the judging was long and arduous. There are six categories,” Serracin said, without revealing the winners.
The expo, which ends next Sunday, is being held at Boquete, a town surrounded by more than 40 flower varieties in 35 colorful gardens.