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The national orchid of Honduras and the contribution of Zamorano in his appointment

Author: Lic. Rina F. Díaz,

Fotografía: Luis Bejarano

The rose was the national flower of Honduras from 1946-1969, and was discarded because it was not a native plant of the country. According to an interview given by Antonio Molina, who was curator of the Paul Standley Herbarium of Zamorano University, the Ministry of Education suggested that the government appoint a distinctly Honduran species. Molina himself, together with Paul Standley, proposed the “Virgin’s Orchild” ” (called at that time Brassavola digbyana) with its immediate approval in 1969.

Espécimen de herbario en Zamorano Rhyncholaelia digbyana var. fimbripetala

After some taxonomic reviews, it was concluded that the national flower is not a Brassavola. Rather, the correct species is Rhyncholaelia digbyana. There are two populations of R. digbyana that extend from the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico to Honduras. The national flower is Rhyncholaelia digbyana var. fimbripetala and is considered endemic to Honduras.

The Virgin’s Orchid is an epiphytic plant.  It grows on trees, and has striking white petals that complement the size and fragrance of the flower. It is found in mixed pine-oak forests at elevations of 2,600 ft. and blossoms between May and August for about a week. It produces abundant seeds and is easy to grow, making it a good candidate to apply tissue culture as a conservation strategy for the species since wild populations have been reduced considerably, particularly by the destruction of its habitat, one of the main problems facing the flora of the country.

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