During the 19th century, orchids were widely collected. With nearly 25,000 varieties, some orchids are among the most exquisite and expensive flowers in the world. In antiquity, orchids were correlated with love and fertility. It was common knowledge that they would protect against diseases. Given as a gift they stand for preciousness and seduction.
The year-round hot and humid climate of Southwestern Sri Lanka makes the ideal climate for growing some varieties of orchids, while they dry and cool climates of the central highlands make other varieties thrive, thus making the whole island, except perhaps the dry north eastern sector, one large nursery for many varieties of this exotic bloom.
Today orchids are a important foreign exchange earner for the island. Originally started as a hobby by the ‘idle rich’ growing orchids, now is a money making hobby for everybody with a green thumb. As the world demand for exotic flowers gets more intense, Sri Lanka seems to be in an enviable position to supply that demand, and earn foreign exchange too. Shown here are some of the more common varieties of orchid. Since many orchid varieties lack alluring scents to attract life-giving bees and other insects to aid in pollination, they depend on their profusion of colors to lure these insects. Thus, in good nursery one can find orchids of just about any color of the rainbow.
Orchid is one of the main five major flowering plants in the island. It is estimated that there are 169 species of orchids are occurred in the country. Majority of the orchid species in the country are to be found in the semi-Montane areas in the wet zone. Leading orchid growing areas of the country are Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Ratnapura, Anuradhapura districts and Ritigala Mountain.
Major categories of Sri Lanka orchids are
- Epiphytic Orchids 99 species
- Terrestrial Orchids 67 species
- Saprophytic Orchids 4 species
Endemic Orchids of Sri Lanka
The habitat is mainly consisting of the shady areas in rain forests; grows up to 1300 meters above the sea level. The beautiful flowers can be seen in the month of January. This endemic orchid species categorized as a threatened flowering plant species due to the deforestation.
This is another rare endemic orchid species of the island and considered as a threatened species. They are available in mountain and semi-mountain areas of the island. The flowers are large and frilled petals. Flowering season is the month of February, March and April.
This orchid species grows in the wet zone of the country and flowers can be seen only in the morning hours from till 9.00 AM.
This is one of the rarest flowering plant of the country. It grows in the wet zone semi-Montane areas where the elevation between 1200-1400 meters above the sea level. This is a protected orchid species and flowers can be seen in the month of April.
Dendrobium Maccarthiae (Vesak Mal)
One of the most beautiful orchid flowers in the country. It is one of the seven native orchid species in the island. it grows mainly in the wet zone forest in the Ratnapura district, it grows on trees. The flowering season of the orchid is from May to July. It is a highly endangered orchid species and protected under the faun flora act of Sri Lanka.
Main habitats are the forest where the annual rain forest is more than 2500 mm. it can be seen in the semi-Montane areas or isolated hills such as Ritigala. This orchid species is classified as a threatened species and flowers can be seen from June to October.
This orchid species grows on the ground under shade of trees. They grow in the areas with heavy rain fall and semi-Montane forests up to 1,800 meters. Flowers can be seen in the months of July and August.
This is the largest orchid genus of the island and divided into 15 species. This is a rare species found in the intermediate, dry zone of the country. It is also considered as a threatened orchid species and flowers can be seen in the months of July and August.
Ipsea speciosa (DaffodilaOrchid, naga meru ala)
This orchid species grows in the grassy areas on ground. This protected orchid species can be seen in the mountain areas and categorized under the highly endangered orchid species.
This species of orchid grows in the wet zone of Sri Lanka. Flowering months are October and November and this is also a threatened flowering plant in the country.
The habitats of this orchid species are mainly consist of the mountain forests of the island and this is a rare orchid species endemic to Sri Lanka. This is the only orchid species in Sri Lanka that belongs to the genus Adrorhizon. It is also a species under threatened orchid species. This orchid is endemic to the island.
Anoectochilus setaceus (Vana Raja)
This species of orchid grows in the wet zone areas and it produces one of the most beautiful in the island. it grows on the ground under decomposed leaf. The flowers of this endemic orchid species can be seen from September to December. A threatened orchid species.
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