Watershed 3 minute read

The Flower of the Holy Spirit

Singular orchid of our forests

The flower of the Holy Spirit (Peristeria Elata) has a special meaning for Panamanians because it has the title of National Flower, declared as such by Law 46 of November 21, 1980.

Curiously, the anatomy of this native orchid reproduces the image of a white dove, which is interpreted in the religious context as a representation of the Holy Spirit of the Christian faith.

Tropical orchids are one of the most appreciated flowers worldwide for their beauty, exoticness and ornamental value. At the same time, the cultivated varieties are high-ranking flowers in the commercial context.

La Flor del Espíritu Santo - Revista El Faro - Canal de Panamá

The forests of our country have a great biodiversity of orchids with an estimated 1,200 species, very varied in their shapes, sizes and colors, which are spread throughout the national geography.

The flower of the Holy Spirit grows in terrestrial substrates. The plant has robust pseudobulbs with leaves up to one meter long, elongated, light green and pleated texture. Once a year, a long vertical spike with small flower buds at the end emerges from its base. As they grow, they become large and white.

As they mature, the flower buds of the flower cluster open and reveal a stunning beauty: the figure of a dove covered by white petals. It is an unconventional flower because of its porcelain-like petals and strong, exquisite fragrance. Flowering occurs in the rainy season: it begins in June and the flowers reach their peak in September and October. After being pollinated by wild bees of the Euglossini tribe, they develop their seed-filled capsules.

Long ago, it was an abundant species, but nowadays it is not. Today there are small populations in the provinces of Cocle, Colon, Panama, Veraguas and Herrera. In the latter, the National Festival of the Flower of the Holy Spirit is celebrated annually, instituted by law 117 of December 10, 2019.

This rare orchid caught our attention as a country and occupies a place of honor in our botanical heritage.

It is important to note that it is present in the inventory of the canal flora.

In spite of its uncertain future, here, in these forests overflowing with biodiversity, it finds an oasis for its survival, one fallen from the sky.

  • Scientific name: Peristeria elata
  • The elimination of its habitat and its indiscriminate extraction from the forests by collectors put its reproduction and survival at risk.
  • This orchid is threatened in the vulnerable category and is one of the most trafficked protected flora species in Panama.

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