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Colombian Orchid Shows

© Nina Rach

Edited/Expanded 13 February 2002
Originally published in the February 2002 issue of "Houston Happenings"

Cattleya trianae Colombia is extremely rich in native orchid species, with 205 different genera reported as of 1994 (Rodrigo Escobar R., ed., Native Colombian Orchids). The national flower is the lovely Cattleya trianae, named after a Colombian botanist, Mr. Jose J. Triana. The Sociedad Colombiana de Orquideología, the oldest society in the country, hosted the 7th World Orchid Conference in 1972, in Medellín, an indication of their level of enthusiasm and organization. Every region has a local society that meets monthly and hosts a local show each year, but only one is designated as the annual "international" orchid show -- "Exposicion Internacional de Orquideas de Colombia." There are plans to increase this to two international shows each year. The main difference between local shows and international shows is AOS judging. The first AOS judging in Colombia was conducted at the 3rd Int'l orchid show, held in Medellín in 1974. The privilege and responsibility for hosting the international show now rotates irregularly between the cities of Bogotá, Pereira, Cali, Manizales, and Medellín.

According to Thomas Toulemonde, an orchid grower in Pereira who specializes in cattleya species, there is a domestic committee in Colombia called the CCO (Comité Colombiana de Orquideología) which deals only with orchid awards. These can be awarded at monthly meetings or at shows and are highly coveted. These are similar to AOS awards, but they are granted only to Colombian species. Records are kept in Medellín and may be available online shortly.

Colombia topo map
 Instituto Geográfico Agustin Codazzi-IGAC
The Asociación Vallecaucana de Orquideología recently hosted the 25th International Show in Cali, 15-18 November 2001. Cali is the third-largest city in Colombia, with a population of about two million people. The altitude is 975 m (3200 ft) and it has a warm climate, which suggests that we might be able to cultivate some of the same plants here on the Gulf Coast. At the show this past November, a team of only four AOS judges spent two days reviewing plants and writing awards. The judging team was led by George Carr from the Florida North Central Judging Center (familiar to us because he lectured on Cycnoches at the Houston Judging Seminar in Feb. 2001) and also included former Houstonian Carol De Biase (previously affiliated with the Houston JC; now in the West Palm Beach JC), as well as Bill Werntz (Nat'l Capital JC) and Gladys Roudel (probationary judge, WPB).

Those of us who remained in the States were shocked to hear the news shortly thereafter - 60 AOS awards were granted! Although I believe that this is a record for the number of AOS awards granted at a single show, bear in mind that the awards list is not considered final until all provisional awards have been cleared. However, it appears that every award that the AOS offers was granted at least once at the Cali show. The awards photography was done by Juan Carlos Uribe, a graduate of Texas A&M, husband of Andrea Niessen, and co-founder of Orquideas del Valle with her in 1986. It apparently took three days to complete the photography as additional slide film needed to be tracked down. There will be an article by George Carr, with more details about this show, in the February issue of Orchids magazine; all of you who are members of the American Orchid Society will be able to learn more very soon. Another great reason to join the AOS!

The next international show in Colombia will be hosted by the orchid growers of Pereira, August 29 - Sept. 1, 2002. This will be the fifth international show hosted by Pereira; high-quality plants at the four preceding shows have garnered two FCC/AOS awards. For show info, contact Aurelio Botero and Thomas Toulemonde at

Ceroxylon quindiuense The city of Pereira has an interesting history. It was founded in 1540 under the name "Cartago," but was soon burned and pillaged. The Spanish conquistadors moved it to a new site 50 km away, and it exists today under the name "Cartago," with a population of 150,000. The original site was resettled by people from Antioquia and renamed "Pereira" in 1869 (to honor Doctor Jose Francisco Pereira). Pereira is presently the capital of the Department (state) of Risaralda, with slightly over a half-million inhabitants. Like Cali, it sits in the Cauca Valley, but it is higher, at an altitude of 1463 m (4800 ft). It's in the heart of coffee-growing country, in my opinion one of the most comfortable climate zones imaginable, and reason enough to visit. One of the sights in the Cauca Valley are stands of the national tree, Ceroxylon quindiuense, the tallest-growing palm tree in the world (up to 70 meters). Some of you may already be familiar with Pereira from mention in the world news. About three years ago, on 25 Jan 1999, an earthquake of magnitude 5.9 struck this area of western Colombia and heavily impacted the city of Pereira and devastated nearby Armenia. The epicenter was only 50 km from Pereira and caused 44 deaths there and the destruction of 390 buildings. (That quake was even felt in Cali, according to an orchid growing friend who was visiting at the time.)

For more info, see:

Program for the Cali show in the Oct. newsletter of the Costa Rican Orchid Association (A.C.O.) - in Spanish.

Discussion of Cali Show in the Dec. 2001 newsletter of the Costa Rican Orchid Association (A.C.O.) - in Spanish.

Map of Colombia: From Lonely Planet

Map of Colombian Departments and Topography: from Instituto Geográfico Agustin Codazzi-IGAC

Orquideas Sua Mena:

Colombian Orchid Species:

Orquideas del Valle:

Colombian Cities:

The 1999 earthquake:

Colombia Web (English):

HOS Banner Houston Judging Center Banner

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