Saving Native Mexican Orchids

In 2005 the Vallarta Botanical Garden was established to create “Mexico’s foremost botanical garden for the propagation, study, discovery, conservation, and display of Mexican native plants for the enjoyment of Puerto Vallarta’s residents and visitors”.  The gardens provide a wonderful and unprecedented opportunity to share the vast diversity and wonder of Mexico’s plant species with the world. Bob Price, who is the garden’s Founder and Curator, says, “We have assembled botanical collections in a safe environment with viewing trails and have already built one of the most visited public collections of orchids in Mexico. Public gardens must deliver stunning beauty to inspire their visitors. Creating and maintaining this kind of beauty requires constant dedicated labour and well­-funded horticultural programmes.”

Mexico’s Plant Diversity

The Puerto Vallarta region is blessed with incredible plant diversity, with nearly 200 species of plant identified so far in the Vallarta Botanical Garden’s 25+ hectare forest preserve. Much of this has yet to be thoroughly studied. New species are still being found in local forests and discoveries about how these plants function in the local ecosystem or how they might serve human needs such as for food and medicine are still to be made.

Mexican Orchids Under Threat

There are over 1,200 native orchid species in Mexico.  Although protected by law, orchids and other wildlife are relentlessly collected and sold on the black market.  This black market in illegal wildlife has driven many orchid species to the very brink of extinction.  Habitat destruction and fragmentation has also had a devastating effect. 

The Solution

The remaining wild populations of some orchids are now so low that their chances of re-establishing on their own are virtually zero.  However, today’s technology makes it possible to grow endangered orchids under laboratory conditions where they can be mass produced.  Native orchids grown in the laboratory can be reintroduced into suitable protected areas where it is hoped they will re-establish viable wild populations. This type of orchid reintroduction is being done successfully in other countries around the world. At the Vallarta Botanical Garden the orchid laboratory is hard at work producing seedlings of endangered orchids to return to the wild. The orchid lab has been established for 7 years and has a full-time technician who is in charge of all stages of the process.  

The BMS Donation

The British Mexican Society’s donation of £2,500 will fund expansion of the capacity of the Garden’s already successful propagation laboratory to produce plants – especially native Mexican Orchids – for purposes of both conservation and public display. Bob Price says, “Our goal with these funds will be to propagate 6,000 native Mexican orchids over a 3-year timeframe. The BMS donation will cover materials including flasks and sterile media as well as other laboratory operational costs to achieve this ambitious goal.”

Workshops for Children

While the Vallarta Botanical Gardens are visited by international gardening groups and botanical garden representatives from around the world, they   also have a social purpose and provide free educational workshops to schools.  The beneficiaries of the gardens and their work to save endangered species will be appreciated by generations to come.

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