I look forward to orchid season in and around Quito! That means from about December through April, I’ll find the best opportunities to see these strange and beautiful flowers in their native habitats. That’s because rainy season brings on the prettiest blooms.

In the meantime, I am always content to visit the orchid collection at Quito’s Botanical Garden in Parque Carolina. In two stunning rooms, it is possible to see an incredible variety of orchids, something I ever thought possible for a single collection. In fact, I think the Smithsonian should seriously consider a visit to learn about some of the more unique varieties in the Quito collection.

A view of one of two rooms exhibiting orchids at the Quito Botanical Garden, Ecuador

Quito’s Orchidarium Consistently Delivers Beautiful Flowers

I have lost track of how many times I have visited Quito’s orchidarium, a fancy name for a collection of orchids held in a protected environment. Some orchidarium’s are small,  like a terrarium you might find in a person’s home. But others are the size of conservatory. Often, they combine other plants that are well-suited to similar environments. In the case of Quito’s collection, it is possible to see species of orchids from other countries, though most are from Ecuador. They also have some stunning examples of bromeliads.

When I first wrote this article, back in 2013, I was a new resident learning to drive in Quito. More than 10 years later, I still visit Quito’s Botanical Garden on my frequent trips back to Ecuador. And I continue to take photos of my favorite orchids, despite not knowing their names. For this updated article, I am using ChatGPT 4 to help. Therefore, if you see an incorrect identification, please let us know in the comments below. We know that the Chatbot is not infallible. 

A striking, hot pink orchid with two incredibly long, thin petals is from the genus Masdevallia. This unique orchid can be seen at Quito's Botanical Garden.

The Unbelievable Variety of genus Masdevallia Orchids

I can remember being amazed by the stunning variety of orchids belonging to the genus Masdevallia on my first visit to the Botanical Garden. I had never before seen these orchids, in another garden nor in the wild. I have since fallen in love with their bizarre shapes and amazing color combinations. Some look as if they should take flight, like an unidentified object in the night sky.

The overall genus prefers cool, moist conditions found in cloud forests in the Andes. Their bright colors attract pollinators, including hummingbirds. Perhaps that’s why they attract me as well!

The flowers of this orchid are arranged in a circle as if each flower is a petal integral to a larger flower. The tubular flower is white with deep red markings on the edges that flare out to thin, bright yellow ends
A hot pink orchid of the Masdevallia genus
A member of the genus Masdevallia with three white petals evenly striped with a deep pink line and ending in a long, thin, pale yellow tail about an inch long. This orchid has no apparent lip.
A pale yellow orchid with petals that end in long, thin stems of bright orange
A diminutive example of a Masdevallia Orchid with burgandy spotted petals tipped with bright yellow spikes
This bright orange orchid with striking long tails is from the genus Masdevallia

Orchids with Long, Trailing Petals 

Theses next two photos were identified as Slipper Orchids by the Chatbot. 

The first is definitely a Slipper Orchid. I clearly remember hiking out to the original lodge built at San Jorge de Milpe and seeing dozens of Slipper Orchids in bloom.

But the second orchids is harder to identify. It does not have the pouch required to be a Slipper Orchid. It does not have the “monkey face” of a Dracula Orchid that also tends to droop downwards. Instead, I believe this is another member of the genus Masdevallia. What do you think? 

A species of the genus Phragmipedium better known as a slipper orchid.
A pale yellow orchid with deep claret stripes and very long, thin petals faces the ground

Dancing Lady Orchids, the genus Oncidium

This collection also includes several varieties of Dancing Ladies, or genus Oncidium. Their ruffled lips are like old-fashioned, floor length skirts. Splashed with polka dots in a stunning array of pinks, purples, and pale yellows, these examples are a joy to admire. It is unclear if these varieties are hybrids as this is a flower that is often cultivated and sold as a household plant.

A pale pink, purple-spotted orchid likely from the genus Oncidium
A colorful orchid from the genus Oncidium with cream colored petals and a hot pink lip spotted with deeper purple

So Many Other Species of Orchids

The variety of species is really stunning. Below are a few more that defy grouping but are beautiful to look at and enjoy. In each of the captions, I have attempted to identify the orchid to the best of my ability. Any errors are my own and I ask for your patience as I learn more about these intriguing flowers.

A fringed lip orchid belonging to the genus Odontoglossum
A spider orchid with dramatic, long, thin petals from the genus Brassia
An orchid yellow-green petals and sepal mottled in deep red and a pale pink lip
Several small orchids of a deep burgundy are lined up sequentially on a single stem
A member of the genus Odontoglossum, this large orchid has pale yellow petals mottled with deep maroon spots and a white lip marked in similar spots
A single fuzzy, white blossom left on the stem of an orchid belonging to the genus Stelis.
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Orchid with a single, striking bloom, featuring a long, tapering dorsal sepal transitioning from deep red at the base to yellow at the tip, flanked by two yellow lateral sepals with red-brown stripes, and delicate, thin side petals in translucent yellow with red-brown accents.
A delicate pink orchid from the Aerangis family, typically found in Madagascar

Visiting The OrChidarium at the Quito Botanical Garden

If you would like to visit the gardens, the gardens are open 365 days of the year, including Christmas! For up-to-date information, please check out their website. If you live in Quito, consider purchasing an annual membership. It’s a bargain! After all, they have a stunning collection of roses, an outdoor Bonsai exhibit, and a dry desert garden that is a great place to see Trainbearer Hummingbirds!

Botanical Garden in Parque Carolina

Information For Your Trip

Keep expensive phones and cameras out of view while strolling in Parque Carolina but feel free to break them out inside the grounds of the garden.

  • Direction by Car, use WAZE and look for Jardín Botánico Quito, Pasaje. Rumipamba, Quito, Ecuador.
  • Direction by Public Transportation for buses around Quito, use the Google Map link and click on get directions. Use the public transportation option to find the best from your current location.