The itinerary for this private Orchid Farm tour had our group of 12 people from Guayabitos gather in San Pancho where we met up with Nicole, the tour organizer at Entreamigos, a local community education center. She gave us an informative overview of their facilities (recycling and more!), then we boarded a van and headed back up the highway to the village of Las Lomas. We drove westward over rather rough roads for approximately 10 minutes until we rolled down one last hill into a nicely cleared and level parking area.
We were welcomed to the farm by Alejandro, a native of Mexico City and former teacher. He had moved to Las Lomas 15 years ago as one of the 20 original founders of this 13 hectare orchid farm and is now one of the 4 people who are currently working it. He introduced us to Jose – the groundskeeper, and Raul and Fernando – who care for the plants. They respectfully use no machines for their work; it’s all done by hand, including watering in the dry season. He said that although they are not specialists, they are creating special spaces here. He then told us the reason they are still closed to the general public is that he feels they are not quite ready yet, they would like to have more plants on display.
Alejandro, who was to be our guide, explained that because Nayarit has a low density of human population relative to the rest of Mexico there are still many areas untouched by humans, and because of this, it is much easier to preserve the native flora and fauna. With that thought in mind, these particular hectares were purchased in order to preserve and protect its natural state while at the same time creating a public space to display orchids and other plants. They chose orchids as their main focus because of the plants’ beauty, its scent, the fact that they are not a parasite to their hosts, and finally the relationship the plant has with birds, insects and other animals. An orchid specialist from Tepic came to teach them about orchids and how to care for them. Their main focus here is to use these hectares to showcase what grows in Nayarit – out of the 40,000 worldwide species of orchid, there are 1,500 in Mexico. Of that number, 300 grow in Nayarit. They currently have 60 orchid species growing on the property. But that’s not all; the plantings here also include fruit trees, cacti and bromeliads.
In the spirit of using what nature can provide and even some things that humans have discarded, they have been innovative in several areas – some of the buildings on the property were built using the trunks of palm trees that were downed in Hurricane Kenna, the men have been hand painting 600+ signs on reclaimed wood for the plants/trees they want to identify, and they have plants growing in coconut husks, old kitchen pots, and even a porcelain toilet!
The trail begins by portraying the type of orchid that grows naturally in this region – many small flowers on long stems (apparently the further south one goes, the larger the blossoms become with fewer flowers on each stem). On some species here the flowers will get larger as the plants mature. The best time to see our regional orchids is in the spring, April being prime time.
The dirt paths meander throughout the property for over a kilometer and are edged with rocks. Where necessary there are stone steps, and even a small bridge or two. Along the way there are several spaces set aside for resting and the one we stopped at will also be dedicated to music in order to honor one of their benefactors, El Gallo, a well known San Pancho musician. He had given them their very first orchid, and also gave them lessons about their care. Personal articles of his were donated to the farm like some of the decor in the first building’s garden. I was happy to contemplate life at this rest area for a few minutes. How tranquil it was!
The most important point I learned during this tour is that human body oils on hands or even from the tip of your nose, will kill the flowers and that will result in no seeds being produced! It can take a plant up to seven years to produce bulbs and it is from the bulbs that flowers/seeds come from. Once the seed capsules are formed, the danger is past. The seeds are then dispersed by the wind.
Alejandro said that of the seven different types of animals interacting with the plants here in the local jungle, it is the squirrels that give them the most trouble – orchids are sweet and provide a tasty food source for them. We didn’t see any animals but we did see some big bugs! Thankfully they were too busy with each other to bother with us.
He told us many of the local names of plants and trees (these are the names being painted on the signs and at some point they will also list botanical names). He pointed out to us Higuera Blanca and Higuera Roja trees (strangler figs), Papel trees (you may have heard those called “Gringo” trees because they turn red and peel!) and a palm tree with long clusters of small nuts that has several uses: oil, a food source for animals (people eat them too) and for making soap. Many vines were observed as well. There are a variety of uses for each particular type such as being a source of water, medicine, basket weaving, and even food.
The greenhouse is situated near the end of the trail at the top of a hill, and it is in there that the work of attaching the orchids to sections of oak takes place. While this is their preferred perch, they also reside on Capomo and Roble trees. I was particularly intrigued by one orchid species that had the aroma of chocolate – yum! One specimen’s scent reminded me of soap. Not so yum. Many plants of various species are also being propagated here, and at some point after the farm is open to the public, there will be plants for sale too.
Just past the greenhouse are the cacti and bromeliads – it was like a never ending story! Stand alone specimens were displayed in lovely rock gardens. Succulents too could be seen nestled in amongst their more bristly relatives.
Our tour came to an end with a brief stop at a little casita near the cacti display.
It gave us a chance to enjoy the serenity of this special place one last time. I reluctantly headed down the path to the parking lot… only to have to walk some more, since the van would have been unable to haul us up and over the first steep rutted hill on our return trip. Ah well, it is Mexico afterall. Just another day in paradise.
For more information about this wondrous place and to find out when the next tour will be, contact Entreamigos in San Pancho. It is important to understand and respect that the Orchid Farm is not currently open to the general public.