Surrounded by two great oceans, teeming with diverse landscapes and wildlife, and home to warm-hearted people with a vibrant culture, welcome to the heart of Central America – Costa Rica!
While this incredible country is world-renowned for its biodiversity, it is also admired for a special symbol of beauty and elegance – its national flower, the Guaria Morada.
This stunning orchid, with its strikingly lovely purple flowers, not only captures the hearts of locals and visitors alike but also tells a story of the rich cultural heritage of the country.
Description of The Guaria Morada
The Guaria Morada (Guarianthe skinneri) is a captivating species of orchid that can command attention with its stunning display. Its scientific name pays tribute to George Ure Skinner, a British botanist who first discovered this plant in Guatemala.
The Guaria Morada has a pseudobulbous growth habit, which means it has enlarged stem structures that serve as water storage organs, helping it survive in periods of drought. The leaves are typically a vibrant green, while the flowers are a stunning lavender color. Each flower is about 2.5 inches in diameter and has an enchanting, delicate scent.
The blooms of Guaria Morada are typically seen from February to April, a period when the Costa Rican landscape transforms into a vibrant tableau of color. But what makes this orchid even more special is not just its appearance, but the fascinating tale of cultural significance that it carries, which we’ll explore in the sections to come.
Where Does The Guaria Morada Grow?
The Guaria Morada is native to the tropical rainforests of Central America, thriving particularly in Costa Rica and Panama, and extending northwards to parts of Mexico. It’s an epiphyte, meaning it grows upon another plant (usually trees) for support, but it does not rely on these plants for nutrients, which it gathers from the air, rain, and the debris surrounding it.
These orchids thrive in areas with high humidity, warm temperatures, and plenty of filtered sunlight. They can be commonly found in the wet forests of the Atlantic lowlands, in the south Pacific, and in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, flourishing at altitudes between 500 to 1500 meters.
The Guaria Morada in The Ecosystem
Like many other orchids, the Guaria Morada plays an integral role in its ecosystem. The plant’s nectar and pollen attract a variety of insects, particularly bees, which assist in the pollination process. This relationship is mutually beneficial, as the insects receive nourishment while the orchid gets help with reproduction.
Moreover, as an epiphytic plant, it creates microhabitats by accumulating organic material around its root system, providing shelter and food for a variety of small creatures, thereby promoting biodiversity. Its water-storing pseudobulbs are also an essential resource during drier periods in the forest.
Furthermore, Guaria Morada’s ability to grow without depleting the resources of its host trees makes it a key player in sustainable growth within its native forests, a testament to Costa Rica’s commitment to conservation and the harmony of its diverse ecosystems.
Symbolism and Meaning: Why and When Did The Guaria Morada Become the National Flower of Costa Rica?
The Guaria Morada became the national flower of Costa Rica on June 15, 1939. The flower holds deep cultural and historical significance for the people of Costa Rica. Its local name, “Guaria,” is believed to be derived from the indigenous Huetar word for “flower.” “Morada” means purple, signifying the flower’s enchanting violet color.
The flower’s symbolism is firmly rooted in indigenous mythology and tradition. The indigenous people used the Guaria Morada for ceremonial purposes, considering it a symbol of luck and a harbinger of good fortune. The orchid is also associated with love and desire, with its exotic, vibrant blooms often given as a sign of affection.
The decision to choose Guaria Morada as the national flower was made in part to recognize and respect the country’s indigenous heritage. At the same time, its stunning beauty and unique ecological role represent the country’s rich biodiversity, commitment to environmental sustainability, and the warmth of its people.
Names of The Guaria Morada
The Guaria Morada is scientifically known as Guarianthe skinneri, but it was previously classified under the genus Cattleya. Therefore, it was also known as Cattleya skinneri. This orchid has various names depending on the region.
In English, it’s often referred to as Skinner’s Guarianthe, in reference to the British botanist George Ure Skinner, who made significant contributions to the knowledge of Central American orchids.
In Costa Rica, however, it’s best known by its traditional name, Guaria Morada, which beautifully captures its essence and cultural significance. The word “Guaria” has various interpretations in different Latin American countries, but in Costa Rica, it’s firmly associated with this cherished national flower.
Interesting Facts About The Guaria Morada
- The Guaria Morada is a type of orchid, a family of flowers known for their incredible diversity. There are more than 25,000 species of orchids worldwide, many of which can be found in Costa Rica’s lush rainforests.
- Traditionally, the flower is used during the Holy Week in Costa Rica, especially on Palm Sunday. It is also a common gift during this period to bring good luck and fortune.
- The Guaria Morada blooms between January and March, making this period a particularly colorful and vibrant time in Costa Rica.
- Guaria Morada’s status as a national symbol is so significant that the country dedicates an entire day to it – National Orchid Day, celebrated every 14th of March.
- Aside from its aesthetic appeal, the Guaria Morada also has medicinal uses. Some indigenous tribes use it in natural remedies for ailments like coughs and respiratory infections.
How to Grow The Guaria Morada
The Guaria Morada is a tropical orchid that thrives in specific conditions. Here’s how you can grow it:
- Light: This flower prefers bright but indirect light. A spot near a north or east-facing window is ideal.
- Temperature: The Guaria Morada enjoys warm temperatures typical of its native tropical climate. Aim for temperatures between 60-85°F (15-29°C).
- Water: The orchid needs consistent moisture but must never be left sitting in water. Water thoroughly once a week and allow it to dry slightly between watering.
- Soil: Orchid-specific potting mix, which provides superior drainage and aeration, is crucial.
- Humidity: As a tropical plant, it prefers high humidity levels. If you live in a dry climate, consider using a humidity tray or a room humidifier.
- Fertilizer: Use a balanced, water-soluble orchid fertilizer about once a month during the growing season.
Remember that patience is key when growing orchids. They often take several years to bloom for the first time, but the wait is worth it for the stunning display they provide.
Other Beautiful Flowers Found in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a paradise for nature lovers, offering a wealth of beautiful, exotic flowers beyond the Guaria Morada. Some of these include:
- Heliconias: Known as “lobster-claws” due to their distinctive shape, these flowers come in various bright colors, from reds and oranges to yellows and greens.
- Passion Flowers: A symbol of Christ’s Passion and Cross, this flower stands out for its intricate design. Many varieties of this plant produce edible passion fruits.
- Bromeliads: These relatives of the pineapple plant grow in a rosette pattern and produce brightly colored flowers that can last several months.
- Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia): Named due to its resemblance to a bird in flight, the bird of paradise is famous for its unique shape and vibrant colors.
- Torch Ginger: The striking, torch-like flower of this plant is a deep red or pink and can reach up to six feet in height.