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Orchids on the Inca Trail
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orchids at inca trail to machu picchu

Orchids are one of the most numerous and diverse flower species on the planet. There are about 25 thousand species in the world. In the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu there are about 425 registered species. It is that the tropical and humid geography is precise for its proliferation. The best way to observe them is through the 4-day Inca Trail tour. Learn more about these species of flowers of intense color and beautiful shapes.

The orchids

Orchids (Orchidaceae) are monocotyledonous plants with more than 25 thousand species in the world. Its main characteristic is its flowers of intense colors that present a bilateral symmetry.

There are very varied types of orchids. They vary from their colors to their length. There are species that measure less than 1 millimeter and also others that can reach 13 meters.

Orchids are present in almost all climates on the planet, except the extremely cold ones. However, its greatest diversity is found in humid tropical geographies.

The 4-day Inca Trail crosses part of the humid tropical geography of the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. Therefore there it is possible to see many species of orchids.

Orchids on the Inca Trail

The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is considered a privileged place in terms of native flora. Orchids stand out, because there are 425 registered species.

The Inca Trail is the route that crosses Inca trails (the Qhapac ñan) for 39 kilometers until arriving at the archaeological site of Machu Picchu. It is on this walk where tourists can appreciate the different species of orchids.

Every year research work is carried out in Machu Picchu to register new species of orchids. Three species were recently found: Epidendrum ochoae, Epidendrum incahuamanii and Epidendrum mormontoyi.

When you start the Inca Trail, you go through five life zones. The rainy season (November to March) is the best time to see these flowers. The cloud forests that surround the Inca Trail route (between 1,800 meters above sea level and 3,000 meters above sea level) are the regions where the most diverse orchids of the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu flourish.

The most famous orchids

The diversity of orchids is impressive. There are plants over five meters high whose flower can reach 20 centimeters long.

Some of the most striking orchids are the Sobralia dichotoma, with large fleshy flowers. Also one of the smallest orchids in the world, a Stelis whose flower is barely two millimeters wide.

Likewise, on the Inca Trail, more than 30 species of Epidendrum have been classified, which is a genus of orchids that can withstand a large difference in temperatures.

These are some of the rarest and most striking orchids on the Inca Trail:

  • The Masdevallia veitchiana – Also called “Waqanqi”. It measures 39 to 44 centimeters whose flowers are orange.
  • The Pleurothallis – This orchid is used by insects for pollination.
  • Oncidium – Also called “dancing lady”. Any breeze moves her flowers, like a dance. His lip that resembles a dancer.
  • The Brassia – It has up to 30 species. It stands out for its large and showy flowers.
  • The Encyclia – At night it fills the air with the fragrances of its citrus-like perfume.
  • The Stanhopea – Characteristic for its complex flowers, usually fragrant.
  • The Maxillaria Anguloa – These orchids can grow on rocks as long as the air humidity is sufficient.
  • The Phragmipedium – The most striking thing about this orchid is that it has whisker-like petals.
  • The Odontoglossum – This orchid attracts attention for its lip, which has calluses in the form of teeth in its center.

Flora care on the Inca Trail

On the Inca Trail and in the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, the greatest threat is man-made forest fires. Obviously these destroy valuable species of orchids. Sometimes entire ecosystems and all the flora and fauna that can be found there are destroyed.

In view of this, it seeks to raise awareness among local people about the burning of land for agricultural purposes. The accidents in this practice are those that cause forest fires in the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.

A proposed solution to this problem and as a proposal to recover paved areas and save orchid species would be the implementation of nurseries for the conservation and propagation of threatened species.

More information

In the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu there is an orchid called ‘Wiñayhuayna’ (Epidendrum secundum). Translated from Quechua, his name means “Forever young.” It is characterized by its multi-colored tones and its ability to tolerate cold. On the Inca Trail you can see it near the archaeological sites of Phuyupatamarca and Wiñayhuayna. This last Inca site was named for the proliferation of this flower in the place.

The name of the Waqanki orchid ( Masdevallia veitchiana ) it is translated from Quechua as: ’you will cry’. There is a legend behind this name that says that an Inca princess was in love with a young warrior. Due to the impossibility of this courtship, the princess fled to the forest. However, the gods called her “Waqanki” and turned her into a flower. A peculiar characteristic of this beautiful flower is its dews like tears.


By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 06-12-2021

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