La Encantada Orquideario

Visit an enchanted orchid garden

Ok, so I've known about Oaxaca's Orquideario, orchid farm, for several years, and did not put it at the top of my list of things to see and do. My view of orchids and the people who are fascinated by them had pretty much been formed by the movies, where orchid aficionados are usually very rich and deeply disturbed characters.

I was wrong, very, very wrong. The aptly named La Encantada Orquideario, about 20 minutes from Oaxaca in Huayapam, is fascinating and, living up to its name, enchanting. Its creator, architect Octavio Gabriel Surez, is one of the most sincere, welcoming, and knowledgeable people I've met. By the end of our visit, I realized that he is one of those rare individuals who truly follows his passion, and as a result makes a difference.

Arq. Octavio Garbriel Surez, the creator of La Encantada Orquideario

If you're lucky, Surez will personally guide you along the shady paths of the intriguing world he's created, and introduce you to some of the hundreds of species of orchids he collects, protects and grows. I learned a lot about these beautiful and fascinating plants from him, and enjoyed every new view and discovery, from huge plants and gaudy flowers to minute blossoms that could only be seen through the magnifying glasses he provides.

One of the hundreds of species of Orchids

you'll see at La Encantada Orquideario

Oaxaca, we learned, is particularly rich in orchids, with just under 700 known species, more than half of all the species native to Mexico. Every species of orchid, it turns out, requires its own specific kind of insect to pollinate it. As a result, the overuse of pesticides, as well as habitat loss, threatens these beautiful, highly evolved plants.

We also learned that orchids aren't just beautiful. One species, known to the Aztecs as tlilxochitl, has achieved worldwide renown--it's the plant from which vanilla is extracted.

In theory, La Encantada is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, since Suarez runs La Encantada on a shoestring, and leads most tours himself, it's best to contact him in advance. You can reach him at: ocsuarez@latinmail.com.

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