Colorado’s Native Orchids

January 20, 2021 Nick Snakenberg , Curator of Tropical Collections and Associate Director of Horticulture

Mention the name “orchid” and most people imagine brightly colored exotic flowers growing in hot, humid rainforests of the tropics. Many Coloradans are surprised to learn that a number of these striking rarities grow within our state’s own borders. In fact, depending on taxonomic classification, at least 25 different orchid species can be found growing in Colorado. 

Most of our native orchids are more diminutive than their tropical relatives and can be hard to find, but they possess a unique beauty all their own. The reward in spotting these elusive flowers is in their intricacies and the joy of the hunt. Since our native orchids are dormant most of the year, you must know their growth cycles and preferred habitats to spot them in the wild. Most occur in moist, shaded ravines between 8,000 and 11,000 feet in elevation and peak bloom can be from late May through early September depending on the species. 

Orchids require a very specific environment for healthy growth and will not be happy in most home gardens. Not only is it irresponsible to remove plants from the wild, it is often illegal. If you stumble upon any of Colorado’s native orchids on one of your hiking adventures – step lightly and do not pick any plants or flowers. Do take plenty of photos to share with friends as proof of your botanical expertise. 


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