Peristeria elata

~ By Gardnbee ~

I spent some time looking and getting somewhat discouraged until I arrived in South America where I discovered an intriguing plant by the name of Peristeria elata. Peristeria is an Orchid native to this region and is the national flower of Panama.

Today this beautiful flower also recognized by common names like Holy Ghost Orchid, Ghost Orchid or Dove Orchid is threatened in its native habitat with extinction due to over collecting and today is a protected plant species. I guess the reason I was getting discouraged is that just about every plant I discovered growing around the world has been brought to North America in one form or another and this particular flower, sadly enough, was no exception.

Even with this plant I found a site on the web in North America that claimed it had Peristeria for sale at a base price of $200.00 but also gave the impression it was okay for them to sell this endangered species because their Peristeria plants were well over 10 years old and started from seed grown in their own nursery. Interestingly enough for me was the fact that there was no mention of how or where the original plant or plants were obtained.

The Dove Orchid (I like this name best) grows pretty close to the edges of hardwood forests and in the autumn, after leaves have fallen, can get the full sun throughout the cool, dry winter months. Itís long pleated leaves rest atop large round pseudo bulbs when mature and can almost reach the size of a softball. The flower spikes grow from the base of the bulb and can be up to 2 meters in length. The flower itself appears as brilliant white in color with a hard waxy texture and can span 2 inches in width with a blooming period of about 3 to 7 days each and depending on how many buds are on the stem can continue blooming for a few months. It is reported to have a spice like scent that is strongest in mid day and apparently can be quite heady and appealing.

If you look to the center of the flower in the photo below, borrowed from Wikipedia free encyclopedia, you will see how the column and lip combine to form a "dove" looking right back at you and this feature results in the common name of Dove Orchid, now how cool is that?

Peristeria elata

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