Orchids of Tropical America: An Introduction and Guide


Treats 122 of the most eyecatching and widespread orchid groups, from the Bahamas to Brazil

Easy to use identification system allows rapid recognition of almost any orchid flower

More than 480 stunning photos from world-class orchid growers and photographers

Entertaining accounts of ecology, medicinal uses and history bring each group to life

Invaluable as a field guide for orchid tourists visiting tropical America - over 100 reserves and parks featured


Dr. Joe Meisel is vice president of the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation, and has worked for over 20 years in Latin America conducting research, teaching, and working with local landowners and communities to protect orchid habitat.

Joe Meisel

Dr. Ron Kaufmann is a professor at the University of San Diego, a long-time orchid grower, founding member of the Orchid Conservation Alliance and chair of the San Diego County Orchid Society's Conservation Committee.

Dr. Franco Pupulin is the orchid curator of the Lankester Botanical Garden in Costa Rica, editor-in-chief of Lankesteriana, and frequent contributor to scientific journals on the subject of orchid taxonomy.

Contact Info

Cornell University Press

Book website
2014 Catalog description


Description:  Miltoniopsis is characterized by spreading, white to purple, pansy-like flowers resembling some lower-elevation MiltoniaFlower:  Showy blossoms are flat and wide, the broad sepals and petals white or lavender with red or pink markings.  The large, spreading lip bears small horns at its base that curl up around the column.  Often marked with red or purple radiating lines, the lip exhibits toothed or rib-like projections on its base.  The column is short, with a distinct terminal cap.  Plant:  Tightly clustered pseudobulbs are flattened laterally (imagine a peach pit), each with a single leaf from its tip and additional leaves arising from the base.  Leaves are soft and narrow, with papery sheaths retained at the bottom.  The inflorescence arises from the pseudobulb base, bearing up to ten flowers.  Similar:  See Miltonia.

Miltoniopsis phalaenopsis

Distribution & Diversity:  Five species of Miltoniopsis reside epiphytically or terrestrially in the cool highlands of Costa Rica, Panama and the Andes from Venezuela to Peru.

Ecology & History:  Miltoniopsis roezlii commemorates an infamous orchid collector whose name is synonymous with the overharvest of orchids and wanton destruction of forests.  Czechoslovakian Benedict Roezl (1823-1885) spent decades in Central and South America stripping orchids from the wild.  He sent as many as one million plants to Europe, boasting of having plundered some eight tons from Venezuela and Panama alone.  His collection method was savagely simple:  orchid-bearing trees were unceremoniously felled until whole forests had been obliterated.  Sea voyage conditions being what they were, few of the delicate plants would survive the journey; it was said that one tree was lost for every “three scraps” of orchid material.  During a demonstration in Cuba of a fiber-spinning machine he had invented, the heaving gears seized his arm and destroyed his left hand.  He bore a pirate-like hook thereafter, which scattered in terror more than one band of trail robbers seeking to ambush him.  He is commemorated today by a Prague statue that hoists an orchid with one hand and clasps a book with the other; evidently the sculptor chose to depict him before the mishap in Havana.


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  • Introduction
  • Foreword by Dr. Phil Cribb
  • Introduction to the guide
  • Orchid Diversity, Ecology & Conservation
  • Introduction to orchid biology and ecology
  • Why are orchids so diverse?
  • Fooling flies, duping lovers & other ecological tales
  • Collectors & bandits, a history of orchids and the people that pursued them
  • Threats and conservation:  what is being done to save orchids?
  • Rapid Identification Guide
  • Illustrated glossary of key orchid characteristics
  • How to identify orchid groups
  • Easy-to-use orchid identification system
  • Field Guide and Genus Descriptions
  • Detailed description each genus, from stem to sepal
  • How to distinguish from similar orchids
  • Distribution & diversity, preferred habitat type and elevation
  • Ecological oddities, human history & other wild tales
  • Superb photographs of the most prominent, widely seen, and historically important species
  • Where to See Orchids
  • Orchid-centered reserves in over 20 Central & South America and Caribbean countries
  • Orchid Resources
  • Links to online sites for orchid identification, care and purchase
  • Extensive bibliography of orchid literature

Sample Genus Accounts


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