Title Page
 Half Title
 Table of Contents

Title: Lankesteriana
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00098723/00023
 Material Information
Title: Lankesteriana la revista científica del Jardín Botánico Lankester, Universidad de Costa Rica
Physical Description: v. : ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Jardi´n Bota´nico Lankester
Jardín Botánico Lankester
Publisher: Jardi´n Bota´nico Lankester, Universidad de Costa Rica
Jardín Botánico Lankester, Universidad de Costa Rica
Place of Publication: Cartago Costa Rica
Cartago Costa Rica
Publication Date: August 2009
Frequency: three times a year[2002-]
irregular[ former 2001]
three times a year
Subject: Botany -- Periodicals -- Costa Rica   ( lcsh )
Epiphytes -- Periodicals -- Costa Rica   ( lcsh )
Orchids -- Periodicals -- Costa Rica   ( lcsh )
Plantkunde   ( gtt )
Botanische tuinen   ( gtt )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Costa Rica
Language: In English and Spanish.
Dates or Sequential Designation: No. 1 (mayo 2001)-
Numbering Peculiarities: Issues for May 2001-Oct. 2003 designated no.1-8; issues for Apr. 2004- designated vol. 4, no. 1-
General Note: Latest issue consulted: Vol. 4, no. 1 (abr. 2004).
General Note: International journal on orchidology.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00098723
Volume ID: VID00023
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 48491453
lccn - 2001240973
issn - 1409-3871


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Full Text

ISSN 1409-3871

VOL. 9, No. 1-2 AUGUST 2009

Orchids and orchidology in Central America:
500 years of history



Copyright C 2009 Lankester Botanical Garden, University of Costa Rica
Effective publication date: August 30, 2009

Layout: Jardin Botanico Lankester.
Cover: Chichiltic tepetlauxochitl (Laelia speciosa), from Francisco Hemandez, Rerum Medicarum Novae
Hispaniae Thesaurus, Rome, Jacobus Mascardus, 1628.
Printer: Litografia Ediciones Sanabria S.A.
Printed copies: 500

Printed in Costa Rica / Impreso en Costa Rica

R Lankesteriana/ International Journal on Orchidology
No. 1 (2001)-- -- San Jose, Costa Rica: Editorial
Universidad de Costa Rica, 2001--

1. Botanica Publicaciones peri6dicas, 2. Publicaciones
peri6dicas costarricenses




Introduction 1
G geographical and historical scope of this study ............................................................................................................................................. 1
Political history of C central A m erica.......................................................................................................................................................................... 3
C central A m erica: biodiversity and phytogeography .................................................................................................................................... 7
O rchids in the prehispanic period ...................................................................................................................................................................................... 10
The area of influence of the C hibcha culture .................................................................................................................................................... 10
The northern region of C central A m erica before the Spanish conquest ....................................................................................... 11
O rchids in the cultures of M ayas and A ztecs ................................................................................................................................................... 15
The history of Vanilla ........................................................................................................................................................................................................... 16
From the C odex B adianus to C arl von L inn ........................................................................................................................................................... 26
The C odex B adianus ............................................................... .................................. 26
The expedition of Francisco H em andez to N ew Spain (1570-1577)........................................................................................... 26
A n e w d a rk a g e ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 2 8
The "English American" the journey through Mexico and Central America
of Thom as G age (1625-1637) .......................31............................................................................................................................................................ 331
The renaissance of science ............................................................................................................................................................................................... 3 31
E nlightenm ent and Independence ...................................................................................................................................................................................... 3333
T h e A g e o f R e a s o n .................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 3 3
The expedition ofA lessandro M alaspina to the Pacific (1789-1794).......................................................................................... 34
The Royal Botanic Expedition of Sess6 and Mocifio to New Spain (1787-1803)................ 40
The dispersal of the botanical collections ........................................................................................................................................................... 48
John L indley and the L am bert herbarium ........................................................................................................................................................... 49
A ugustin D e C andolle and the "L adies of G eneva" .................................................................................................................................. 49
The C abinet of N natural H history of G uatem ala ................................................................................................................................................. 53
T h e n e w re p u b lic s ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 5 4
T im e s o f c h a n g e ....................... 5 4................................................................................................................................................................................................. 5 4
Orchidomania 55
B ritannia rules the w aves .................................................................................................................................................................................................. 56
The G erm an-B elgian connection ................................................................................................................................................................................ 75
The Scandinavians .................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 87
'M manifest D estiny'89 .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 89
The M exican-A m erican w ar and the decline of B ritish hegem ony ............................................................................................... 89
The C alifornia gold rush and the interoceanic canal ................................................................................................................................ 93
William Walker in Central America .........................103................................................................................................................................................. 103103
The M exican Em pire of M axim ilian of H apsburg ....................................................................................................................................... 107
The Spanish Scientific C om m mission to the Pacific 1863-1866 ......................................................................................................... 108
L indley and R eichenbach: change of the guard ............................................................................................................................................. 108
The mysterious seniorr' Endres........................................... 111........................................................................................................................................... 111
Other travelers in Central America (I): 1839-1870 113
O the e ra of elb er s i sm A ( 1 ........................ .......................................................................................................... 116
T h e e ra o f lib e r a lism ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 1 1 6
G erm an (and other) collectors in the second half of the X IX century ....................................................................................... 117
H em sley and the 'B iologia C entrali-A m ericana 124........................................................................................................................................... 124
The B otanical Station in B elize (1892-1921) ................................................................................................................................................... 125
C central A m erican orchids in E ngland at the end of the X IX century ........................................................................................... 126
C osta R ica: the N national M museum and the 'Instituto Fisico-G eografico' ................................................................................. 128

LANKESTERIANA9(- 2), August 2009. 0 Unversidad de Costa Rwa, 2009.


O their collectors at the end of the X IX century ............................................................................................................ ......................... 133
O their travelers in C central A m erica (II): 1870-1900 ......................................................................... ............... ................. ............ 136
The N ew E m pire ........................................140........................................................................................................................................................ 140
The 'Big Stick' policy .....................140................................................................................................................................................................................... 140
Rudolf Schlechter .....................141............................................................................................................................................................................................. 141
Oakes Ames 143
C osta R ica: the years of 'dofia' A m paro .............................................................................................................................................................. 145
Ot6n Jimenez 152
C harles H erbert L ankester ................................................................................. ............................................................................................................ 154
The orchids of the Panam a C anal .................................................................................................................................................................................... 161
The biological exploration of the Sm ithsonian Institution .................................................................................................................. 161
The orchid garden of C harles W esley Pow ell ................................................................................................................................................. 162
The Tropical Station of the M issouri B botanical G arden ....................................................................................... ........... ............ 163
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute .......................................................... 164
O their A m erican collectors, 1900-1930 .................................................................................................................................................................. 165
Paul C Standley and the C central A m erican floras ................................................................................................................................... 166
N northern C central A m erica: 1900-1930 ......................................................................................................................................................................... 172
Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras ............................................... ... 173
O their collectors in M exico during the first years of the X X century ........................................................................................... 177
The Lancetilla Experimental Station .......................180.............................................................................................................................................. 180
From the 'G ood N neighbor' policy to W orld W ar II .......................................................................................................................................... 183
O rchidology in C central A m erica, 1930-1950 ................................................................................................................................................. 184
The Flora of Panam a (I) ...................... ...............185....................................................................................................................................................... 185
The 'great depression' of C osta R ican orchidology ............................................................................................................................... 189
H enry Teuscher and the M ontreal B otanical G arden ............................................................................................................................... 192
The Flora de G uatem ala ................................................................................................................................................................................................... 192
The land of Percival H ildebart G entle .................................................................................................................................................................. 194
The M exican R renaissance (I) .................................................................................................................................................................................... 198
Honduras and the Pan-Am erican Agricultural School of 'El Zamorano' ........................................ .............................. 200
The second half of the X X century ................................................................................................................................................................................. 201
The M exican R renaissance (II) .................................................................................................................................................................................... 201
H eller and H aw kes: a N icaraguan interlude .................................................................................................................................................... 207
C larence K laus H orich: the last of the adventurers ................................................................................................................................... 209
R afael L ucas R odriguez and the L ankester B botanical G arden ......................................................................................................... 210
Myth and reality: Costa Rica during the years of Dora E. Mora and Joaquin Garcia .................... .................... 215
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.......................216.................................................................................................................................................. 216216
The F lora M esoam ericana ............................................................................................................................................................................................. 2217
Fritz H am er and the orchids of E l Salvador and N icaragua ............................................................................................................. 218
G uatem ala: the heirs of B aron von Tuerckheim ........................................................................ ................................. ................. 220
The Flora of Panam a (II) ...................... .................222...................................................................................................................................................... 222222
Icones Plantarum Tropicarum & Icones O rchidacearum ....................................................................................................................... 225
The N national O rchid Societies ..............................................226
A know ledgem ents ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 228
L literature cited ........................................229................................................................................................................................................ 229229
Index of persons and institutions ........................................................................................................................................................................................ 243
In d e x o f p la n ts ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 2 5 3

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.

LANKESTERIANA9(1-2) 1-268 2009




Centro de Investigaci6n en Orquideas de los Andes "Angel Andreetta",
Universidad Alfredo Perez Guerrero, Ecuador
Orquideario 25 de Mayo, San Jose, Costa Rica


Geographical and historical scope of this study.
The history of orchids started with the observation and
study of species as isolated individuals, sometimes
grouped within political boundaries that are always
artificial. With rare exceptions, words such as
a.. I. *, or "phytogeography" did not appear in the
botanical prose until the early XX century.
Although Humboldt and Bonpland (1807), and
later Oersted, had already engaged in the study of

"plant geography", botanical exploration in our region
seldom tried to relate plants with their life zones. The
XIX century and the first decades of the XX century
are best defined by an almost frenetic interest in the
identification and description of new species, without
bothering too much about their geographical origin.
No importance was given to the distribution of orchids
within the natural regions into which Central America
is subdivided.
Exceptions to this are found in the works by Bateman
(1837-43), Reichenbach(1866) and Schlechter (1918),

* The idea for this book was proposed by Dr. Joseph Arditti during the 1st. International Conference on Neotropical
Orchidology that was held in San Jose, Costa Rica, in May 2003. In its first chapters, this is without doubt a history of
orchids, relating the role they played in the life of our ancient indigenous people and later in that of the Spanish conquerors,
and the ornamental, medicinal and economical uses they gave to these plants. It is not until the late XVIII century, but
above all in the XIX century that we can talk about a history oforchidology, with the development of botanical science
and the establishment of the bases of modern orchidology by Lindley. But the XIX century was also the time of legendary
commercial collectors who, frequently with the complicity of men of science, collected with a frenzy often bordering on
madness. Orchid knowledge became sometimes a synonym of orchid destruction. During the second half of the XX century
the world developed a growing conscience of the negative impact of man on his natural habitat and I would like to believe
that, in the future, orchidology will devote itself in an increasing manner to the study of orchids as a means to preserve them.
Motivated by this belief, I decided to write this history, that will be more a story about orchids and men than a story about
orchids and science, hoping that mankind will rediscover the harmonious relation with nature that characterized the life of
the first inhabitants of our region. The great naturalist Alexander F. Skutch, who chose a life of study and contemplation
amidst the forests of southern Costa Rica, expressed it in much better words: "Sometimes, before leaving the hilltop, I visit
the old Indian burial ground. Despite promises of golden ornaments, I have never permitted anyone to excavate these graves,
for I believe that we should treat the burials of alien races with the same respect that we desire for our own. Sometimes, in a
meditative mood, I ask myself whether, from the moral standpoint, my title to this land is as valid as that of the men whose
dust lies beneath the red clay. Perhaps the only answer to this perplexing question is that he most deserves to have the land
who makes the best use of it. If my love of the mountains and rivers and forests is greater than theirs, if these things speak
more meaningfully to me and I am more keenly appreciative of their beauty; if I strive harder to preserve this natural setting
in its pristine splendor and to conserve the soil's fertility -then perhaps I can justify my possession of this land that once
belonged to them. If I fall short of the aborigines in these respects, then I -and the whole line of too-aggressive palefaces
who transmitted to me what was once theirs -are but piratical intruders, whose right to this land would be hard to defend.
Enlarging on this theme, it seems to me that, unless evolution miscarries, the ultimate possessor of the earth will be the race
that most appreciates its grandeur and beauty and cherishes it most carefully, that rules it as a generous and compassionate
lord instead of raping it like a greedy tyrant, as men have all too commonly done" (Skutch, 1971: 223-224).


but above all the monumental account by Godman
and Salvin on the Central American biology, in which
Hemsley wrote the botanical part (Hemsley, 1883).
The enumeration of species in this work is followed
by a detailed description of the known localities of
collection from which the phytogeographical regions
of Central America can already be inferred.
In the first chapters, our history centers on Mexico-
Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec empire and later of
the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The first descriptions of
orchids for our area of study (with a medicinal rather than
botanical purpose) originate in locations that, although
outside of the geographical area with which we are
concerned, were strongly influenced by the ancestral
culture of the Maya and maintained a close interaction,
during the centuries preceding the Spanish conquest,
with the rest of Central America. It is no coincidence
that the northern limit of the cultural expansion of the
Mayas overlaps very approximately with what today
is considered the northern limit of Mesoamerica: the
Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The southern region of Central
America during this period offers only a few references to
the use of orchids in ritual ceremonies of the indigenous
cultures of northern Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica.
During the colonial period and especially since the
XVIII century, Guatemala became more and more the
political and cultural center of the region. Important
during this period are the works of Friar Francisco
Ximenez and, above all, the arrival in Guatemala of the
expedition of Sesse and Mocifio. After independence
from Spain, Chiapas was separated from the Captaincy
General of Guatemala. Due to its annexation to
Mexico, the northern border of Guatemala became the
first artificial border in northern Central America. The
botanical exploration of southeastern Mexico and the
Yucatan peninsula, isolated from Guatemala as well
as from Mexico itself for geographical and political
reasons, was delayed until the late XIX century.
The separation of Belize, that had become a British
possession in the last third of the XVIII century,
contributed to this problem. Something similar
occurred to the south. Panama remained as a part of
Colombia and its integration with the rest of Central
America did not begin until the second half of the XIX
century (Fig. 1A-B).
Modem history of botanical exploration and of
orchids in Central America, initiated by the botanists

of the expedition of Malaspina, continued during the
first decades of the XIX century with the exploration
by Cuming of the Pacific coast belt and the arrival of
Skinner in Guatemala. It gained strength at the end of
the first half of the century with the fortunate arrival of
the illustrious trio formed by Oersted, von Warscewicz
and Wendland. In the second half of the century,
knowledge about our orchids grew in an accelerated
form and experienced an enormous boom during the
first decades of the XX century. The publications by
Reichenbach (1866) and Hemsley (1883), and later
Schlechter (1918), opened the eyes of the world to the
richness of orchid diversity in Central America.
Their place was taken by Standley and especially
Ames after World War I. Ames, Hubbard and
Schweinfurth published in 1936 a work of great
importance at the generic level, The Genus Epidendrum
in the United States and Middle America (Ames et
al., 1936), but it was not until the first years of the
second half of the XX century that a new attempt was
made to see the orchids of Central America in a more
phytogeographical than political context, with the
publication by L. O. Williams of his Enumeration of
the Orchidaceae ofCentralAmerica, British Honduras
and Panama (Williams, 1956), preceded some years
before by The Orchidaceae of Mexico (Williams,
1951). During the last decades of the XX century and at
the beginning of the third millennium, the investigation
of our orchids showed an increasing emphasis in the
study of our natural regions. A higher awareness of the
multiple threats to the conservation of our biodiversity
contributed to generate a growing interest in studying
orchids from an ecological and phytogeographical
point of view. An example of this is the publication
of the monumental Flora Mesoamericana (Missouri
Botanical Garden, UNAM, Field Museum of Natural
History, in press), preceded by works of smaller scale
but no less importance, such as Field Guide to the
Orchids of Costa Rica and Panama by Dressler (1993)
and the Synopsis of the Orchid Flora of the Mexican
Yucatan Peninsula by Camevali et al. (2001).
Our history has important gaps that cannot be
avoided. Research on our species started in Guatemala
with Mocifto and continues there through the present
days. After the travels by Oersted, von Warscewicz and
Wendland, the orchid floras of Nicaragua, Costa Rica
and Panama were brought into the light of day.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.

OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

In Belize, the Botanical Station was founded in 1892
and by 1899 there were already reports of 23 orchid
species. However, it is surprising that for the combined
territories of Honduras and El Salvador, Hemsley
(1883) and Schlechter (1918) only mention a scarce
dozen species. Knowledge of orchids of El Salvador
began with the publication of the Lista preliminary de
las plants de El Salvador by Standley and Calderon
(Standley & Calderon, 1925) and another 50 years had
to pass until the publication of Las Orquideas de El
Salvador by Hamer (Hamer, 1974-1981). Honduras
is still mostly unknown territory. With the exception of
the few species mentioned by Ames in Standley's Flora
of the Lancetilla Valley (1931) and the work of L. O.
Williams (1956), not one single work has ever been
published about the orchids of this country.
To summarize, the historical scope of this study
covers the years from the beginning of formal botanical
exploration (the arrival of the Malaspina expedition in
Panama) to the present. It is preceded by two chapters
about orchids during the prehispanic period and the
first three centuries of Spanish rule.
The geographical scope corresponds to the
presently accepted concept of Mesoamerica, an area
that reaches from the isthmus of Darien, in Panama
(and that should probably include the northern regions
of the Colombian departments of Choc6, Cordoba
and Antioquia1 to southeastern Mexico (the states of
Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas
and the eastern regions of the states of Veracruz and
Oaxaca). The area includes the Bay and Swan Islands
in Honduras and Cocos Island in Costa Rica 2.

Political history of Central America

"Venient annis saecula series quibus Oceanus, vincula
rerum, laxet et ingens pateat telus tethysque novos
detegat Orbes nec sit terris ultima Thule." ("Years
will come with the passing of the centuries when the
Ocean, opening its barriers, will let us see a land of
immense extension, a new world that will appear in
the dominions of Thethis, and no longer shall Thule
be the limit of the Universe".
Seneca, who was a Spaniard (54 B.C. -39 A.C.)

"I arrived at Cape Gracias a Dios3 and from there our
Lord gave me prosperous wind and current. This was on
September 12" (Masia, 1971: 247) Columbus described
with these words, in the navigation log of his fourth
voyage to America, the discovery of the coast of Central
America, in what we call today Honduras. It was the
year of 1502. Columbus continued south, touching land
in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and arriving finally in
Veraguas (today Bay of Almirante, in Panama). From
there he sailed to Jamaica. In 1504 he returned to Spain,
where he died in poverty in 1506. Columbus is credited
with the first recorded comment on canopy-adapted
vegetation; he wrote that tropical trees "have a great
variety of branches and leaves, all of them growing
from a single root" (Benzing, 1971: 1). The land that
Columbus had just discovered was inhabited, in the
northern two thirds of Mesoamerica, by descendants of
the ancient Mexican civilizations that had disappeared
600 years earlier and were now under the influence of
the Aztec Confederation, with its political center in
Tenochtitlan, in the Valley of Mexico. Living together
with dozens of other languages, nahuatl or dialects
derived from it became a lingua franca that facilitated
the cultural and commercial exchange between the
nations of the area.The southern third of Mesoamerica
had been settled by tribes whose culture and language
originated in the Chibcha civilization of northern South
America (Fig. 1C).
The conquest of Central America began in 1508, with
the expedition ofAlonso de Ojeda and Diego deNicuesa
to Panama. During the next decades, while Pedrarias
Davila was governor of the new land, Panama was the
point of origin for numerous penetrations to the North,
during which the present territories of Costa Rica and
Nicaragua were explored and conquered. In northern
Mesoamerica, Hernn Cortes began his conquest of
Mexico in 1519 that culminated victoriously when
the Aztec Empire surrendered in 1521. Emperor
Charles I created, in 1535, the first Vicekingdom on
American soil with the name of New Spain. Pedro de
Alvarado, lieutenant of Cortes, attempted from Mexico
the conquest of the present territories of Guatemala,
Honduras and El Salvador in 1524. The conquest was

1 Quesada, R. (1980, Costa Rica, la frontera sur de Mesoamerica) defines the basin of the Atrato river in the Colombian Choc6 as
the "southern limit of southern Central America".
2 The term Mesoamerica is a subject of discussion. Attempting to define a region composed of countries that present a similar
phytogeographical character and that have their origin in a common geological past, the term "Central America" was used until

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


successfully concluded in 1568, with the establishment
of the Captaincy General of Guatemala that included
Chiapas, Soconusco, Guatemala, El Salvador, Verapaz,
Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
During the XVI Century, the history of Central
America cannot be separated from that of Mexico.
Beginning with the XVII Century however, although
nominally dependant on the Vicekingdom of New
Spain, the distance from the capital gave the Captaincy
General of Guatemala more autonomy to establish
relations with the mother country.
In the south, Panama took a different course. After
Vasco Nufiez de Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean
in 1513 and Pizarro conquered the Inca Empire in 1533,
Panama became the crossing point for all communications
between Spain and the future Vicekingdom of Peru. The
separation of Panama from the rest of Central America was
consolidated in 1717, when Spain established in Santa Fe
de Bogota the Vicekingdom of New Granada, into which
Panama was integrated. After the defeat of the Invincible
Armada in 1588, Spain consumed herself in sterile wars
against Great Britain and France. The growing British
Empire gained commercial advantages and set foot in the

Caribbean, invading Jamaica in 1655. In 1673, through
the Treaty of Paris, the Spanish allowed the British to
log in a prescribed area of Belize (Miller Carlstroem &
Miller, 2002: 13). The famous buccaneer and cartographer
William Dampier alternated his life between logging in
Belize and Honduras and plundering the Spanish fleets in
the Caribbean between 1675 and 1688.
France and Holland did not stay behind. From the
Lesser Antilles to the Guyanas, Spain lost slowly the
absolute control it had exercised during the XVI Century
over the Caribbean and its coasts (Fig. 2A).
The decadence of the Empire continued throughout
the XVII Century. Without precious metals to offer to the
crown, the Central American colonies languished under
the Hapsburg kings Philip III, Philip IV and Charles II.
Unable to beget an heir, the last monarch of the Hapsburg
dynasty made his will, in 1700, in favor of Philip of
Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV, King of France: with
him, the house of Bourbon arrived at the throne of Spain
(Garcia de Cortazar & Gonzalez Vesga, 1994: 337).
Under Philip V (1700-1746) and Fernando VI (1746-
1759), Spain attempted to reorganize the Empire. In
the second half of the XVII Century the enlightened

the first years of the XX century. This was the term used by Hemsley (1883) in his Biologia Centrali-Americana and Schlechter
(1918) in his Kritische Aufzdihlung der bisher aus Zentral-Amerika bekanntgewordenen Orchidaceen. Both used the term in a very
broad sense, including in their catalogues the species known from western Panama to the Rio Grande, which marks the border
between Mexico and the United States. Williams (1956) comes much closer to the geological and phytogeographical reality when
he writes about the Orchidaceae of Central America, British Honduras and Panama, adding in his introduction that southeastern
Mexico (to the isthmus of Tehuantepec) belongs biologically to Central America. Williams is the first to insinuate in the title of
his work the political and historical differences of Panama and Belize with respect to the five Central American nations sensu
strict. In the last decades of the XX century the term "Mesoamerica" begins to gain adepts in our region, mainly through the
publication of the Flora Mesoamericana by the Missouri Botanical Garden, as the region that comprises all of Panama through
southeastern Mexico (states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas and the eastern part of Veracruz and Oaxaca).
The area includes the Swan and Bay Islands in Honduras and Cocos Island in Costa Rica. This definition is contradictory for vari-
ous reasons. The northern limit is defined by a geological accident, the isthmus of Tehuantepec, an imaginary line that crosses
the southeastern part of the Mexican states of Veracruz and Oaxaca. The southern limit is formed by the border between Panama
and Colombia. If we accept the theory that Central America was probably an archipelago without continental connection with
either North or South America (following Dressier, 1993), then we would accept the northern limit (Tehuantepec) but would
have to establish the southern limit in its geological counterpart, the isthmus of Panama. But even the most superficial study
about the distribution of plants in the region will show that, in phytogeographical terms, many species escape their geological
limits. Therefore, these limits should be extended to the Colombian Choc6 and northern Ecuador in the south and to the Mexican
states of Michoacan, Mexico and Puebla in the north. Quesada (1980) defines the watershed of the Atrato River in the Colombian
Choc6 as the "southern limit of southern Central America". To confuse things even more, the database of the Missouri Botanical
Garden includes under "Mesoamerican specimens" all plants collected between northern Mexico and eastern Panama, returning
curiously to the old definitions of Hemsley and Schlechter. To make matters worse, Jorge Le6n (pers. com., 2003) is right in stat-
ing that Mesoamerica is not a geographical but a cultural term, that comprises the areas that in pre-Columbian times were under
the influence of the ancient Maya civilization in Guatemala and Yucatan, as well as those that were dominated (centuries later)
by those cultures that had their center of power in Mexico-Tenochtitlan. Those territories had their northern limit in the present
Mexican states of Sinaloa, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas and their southern limit in northwestern Costa
Rica. Excluded from the term "Mesoamerica" in a cultural sense are the totality of Panama, most of Costa Rica and the Atlantic
coast of Nicaragua and Honduras: territories that were under the influence of the Chibcha cultures of northern South America.
3Gracias aDios, in English "Thanksto God". Columbus gave this name tothe cape afterhe had sailed over 70 days against terrible storm.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

)l(JS tJAW lrzct6 f t Sk

0 500


Central Mexico

FIGURE 1. A -Map of the Pacific Coast of Central America and South Western Mexico. From Malaspina, 1990: 240.
B -Map of the northern South American Pacific Coast and of Panama. From Malaspina, 1990: 240. C -Map of Central
America showing the limits of the ancient Mesoamericancultures. In Carmack et al., 1996: 30.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


Yucatan a-,L ht AU TB
Channel &boat) 11 A
ttuh* *""
Cw,- Windward
__~_ r_ _ et- ww~ Psr
Cw- W-a& d.
9-P pM*-


s Caribbean Sea

rs~~hi a~- Se And..anSe
P alma

S North v S C

B I ,
FIGURE 2. A Map of Central America and the Caribbean (1675). In Dampier,
America. Magellan Geographix, 1992, Santa Barbara, California.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. O Unlversidad de CostaRica, 2009.

Bahia de


OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

despotism penetrated the social sectors close to the
crown. When Charles III became king (1759), the
ideas of the Enlightenment gained force, pretending to
reorganize the Spanish society on the foundations of
utility, prosperity and happiness (Garcia de Cortazar &
Gonzalez Vesga, 1994: 370).
These new ideas, and the crumbling of the Spanish
administrative apparatus under French occupation at the
beginning of the XIX century, opened the way to the
independence of the American colonies. On September
15, 1821, the Captaincy General of Guatemala declared
its independence from Spain, followed by Panama on
November 28 of the same year. While Panama remained
united to Colombia, the rest of Central America became
part of the short lived Mexican Empire of Agustin de
Iturbide. In 1823, the United Provinces of the Center
of America were born. The Federation dissolved in
1838, giving way to the present republics of Guatemala,
Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Only
Chiapas, historically part of the Captaincy of Guatemala,
maintained its union with Mexico.
The discovery of gold in California in 1848 brought
thousands of adventurers who used the routes of the
Isthmus of Panama and the San Juan River in Nicaragua
as the shortest way between Atlantic and Pacific. An
interest in the region woke up that led William Walker,
with the support of pro-slavery North Americans, to
take possession of Nicaragua, threatening to expand his
dominions to the rest of Central America. Following
several military campaigns, Walker was finally defeated
and executed in Honduras, in 1860.
In 1903, North American interests in the construction
of an interoceanic canal led, on November 3, to the
separation of Panama from Colombia. While U.S. naval
forces prevented the Colombian army from intervening,
the United States recognized the new republic officially
on the 13 of the same month. Five days later, the Hay-
Bunau Varilla Treaty was signed, in which Panama
ceded the strip of its territory through which the future
canal was to be built, in perpetuity to the United States.
In Belize, the battle of Saint George's Caye, in 1798,
marked the beginning of full British control, although the
territory did not become a colony of the crown until 1871,
under the name of British Honduras. In 1973 it changed
its name to Belize, and despite the protests of Guatemala,
who claimed it as part of its territory, on September 21,
1981, Belize officially became an independent nation,

but it remains a member of the British Commonwealth
(Miller Carlstroem & Miller, 2002: 14).
After almost 500 years, Central America had finally
reached its present political configuration (Fig. 2B).

Central America: biodiversity and phytogeography

"The world is so large and beautiful, and has
such a diversity of things so ditre'nt one from
the other, that it brings admiration to all who
think and contemplate it well".
(Francisco Lopez de G6mara, 1982)

Few regions in the world can compete with Central
America in floristic diversity. This diversity can only
be understood through the study of its phytogeography.
The great number of microclimates in a territory of
barely 650.000 square kilometers (slightly more than
the area of Spain), has produced, in the case of the
Orchidaceae, almost 3,000 different species in the
Central American area, approximately one tenth of all
species known worldwide. Ossenbach et al., (2007),
indicate a total of 2,670 species for the region.
The Panama land bridge -here considered to be the
Isthmus of Panama and all the land northward to the
Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the Republic of Mexico- is
one of the most interesting and challenging parts of
this planet to study with regard to questions of past and
present biogeography. This is the only extant land bridge
of biogeographical significance, and in past geological
times its importance as a passageway for flora and fauna
between continents may have been equaled only by the
Bering land bridge (D'Arcy & Correa, 1985: 117).
Friar Bartolome de las Casas in his GeneralHistory of
the Indies (chapter XLII) makes reference to Columbus's
astonishment when first seeing the trees loaded with
epiphytes: "He saw there many trees, very different from
those in Castilla, and they had the branches in many
different manners, and all from one trunk or one stem,
and one branchlet in one form and the next in other, so
that it was the greatest marvel of the world, such was
the diversity from one to the other, and those were not
grafted, because the Indians did not cure them ..." (cited
in Masia, 1971: 223).
Alexander von Humboldt was a pioneer when he
wrote, in 1807, about the relationship between climate and
vegetation. For this he has been called, with justice, the
"Father of Plant Geography". Richard B. Hinds, surgeon

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Unversidad de Costa Rca, 2009.


on board of H.M.S Sulphur, who explored the Pacific
coast of Central America between 1836 and 1842, wrote
in 1843 about The regions of vegetation (Hinds, 1843,
cited in Jorgensen, 2003: 5). Schlechter cites Galeotti,
who in 1844, divided the climatic zones in Mexico in
"warm regions", "temperate regions", "temperate regions
rich in Cactaceae" and "cold regions" (Schlechter, 1918:
332). Somewhat later, Anders S. Oersted, who visited
Central America and the Caribbean about the middle of
the XIX Century, illustrated the vegetational zones of a
tropical island taking Jamaica as an example (Fig. 3A).
The phytogeography of Central America in general
has been considered by Grisebach, in 1884, based on
a few personal and a lot of foreign observations, in his
work Vegetation der Erde. Andreas Schimper published
his classic Plant geography upon a physiological basis
(Schimper, 1898). Richer in regional information than
the phytogeography of Grisebach (1872), Schimper's
book divides the region from Mexico to Colombia into
monsoon rain forests, thin and monsoon forests, and
xerophilic vegetation (woodland savannas) (Gomez,
1986:13). The progress in phytogeographical knowledge
in the XX Century is described by G. S. Hartshorn who,
in the case of Costa Rica4 says: "The first essays for
the description of the phytogeography of Costa Rica
highlight a few floristic regions, based mainly on altitude.
Pittier recognizes three altitudinal bands: (1) a basal
zone from sea level to 1,000 m, with a mean temperature
between 280 and 210 C; (2) a montane or intermediate
zone from 1,000 m to 2,600 m with a mean temperature
between 210 and 140 C; and (3) a superior or Andine zone
above 2,600 m with mean annual temperatures between
150 and 5 C" (Hartshorn, cited in Janzen, 1991: 120).
In a very comprehensive essay about the phytogeo-
graphical regions of Costa Rica, Werckle described four
regions: (1) the Atlantic or Caribbean region from sea
level to 800 m; (2) The Pacific region, from sea level
to 800 m; (3) the temperate region from 800 to 1,500
m; (4) the cold region above 1,500 m. (Werckle, 1909).
Standley followed the phytogeographical divisions
of Werckle, but affirmed that the cold region had to
be subdivided into a low and a high band. In addition,
Standley was the first to point to the difficulty consisting
in assigning one single altitudinal limit to a particular
type of vegetation (Standley, 1937-38).

Some decades later, L. R. Holdridge, who lived for
long years in Costa Rica, proposed in 1947 his system of
"Life Zones" (Fig. 3B) in which he assigned a primary
importance to temperature and rainfall and considered the
fluctuation and distribution of these climatic parameters
as the main determinants of the vegetation of the world.
The vegetation of each life zone has a physiognomy and
a particular structure that are present every time that
similar bioclimatic conditions occur (Holdridge, 1947).
To describe and illustrate in a simple manner the
Central American phytogeographical regions, we follow
Smith and Johnston (1945: 11) who, oversimplifying,
define for the region three basic zones: (1) the tropical or
subtropical rainforest; (2) the tropical deciduous forest;
y (3) the montane zone (Fig. 3C).
Tropical or subtropical rainforest: this zone extends
along the Atlantic coast, from Panama in the South
to the Yucatan peninsula in the North, although we
find similar forests in some points of the Pacific coast
(Darien in Panama, Osa peninsula in Costa Rica). It
corresponds to the "tierra caliente Atlantica" (= Atlantic
warm region) of Standley. The vegetation is determined
by high temperatures and rainfall and alluvial soils. On
its western limits, the rainforest ascends the mountain
sides until it merges with the premontane forest. A
certain monotony in the climatic conditions along the
year may be the cause for a relatively low biodiversity.
In Central America we find in this zone approximately
25% of all orchid species that are known for the region.
However, all generalizations are dangerous. As Smith
and Johnston warn, it is not to be assumed that the
rain-forests thus outlined are uniform in constitution.
On the contrary, they disclose a high degree of local
differentiation, being grouped together only because of
a superficial resemblance and because they are acted
upon by more or less similar climatic forces (Smith &
Johnston, 1945: 14). This is equally valid for all other
phytogeographical zones.
Tropical deciduous forest: for Central America,
this zone extends along the Pacific coastline and is
characteristic because of its two well differentiated
seasons. It corresponds to the "tierra caliente Pacifica"
(= Pacific warm region) of Standley. The appearance
of the vegetation undergoes striking changes during
the year. It is the zone where the variety of orchids is

4 Although each of the countries in the region shows phytogeographical differences, it is valid to generalize for Mesoamerica using
Costa Rica as a model.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America


ipobi; \ N x l

__tebpo / AV" 1

Suropl T\m M on FereS Pr nt, an


FIGURE 3. A Illustration by Oersted (1857) of the vegetational zones in Jamaica. In Verdoorn, 1945, p. xiv. B "Life
Zones" of L. RHoldridge. In Hall & Perez Brignoli, 2001: 23. C Phytogeographical regions of Central America after
Smith & Johnston, 1945: 12.
11 \,,,

Smith & Johnston, 1945: 12.

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smallest, with only about 15% of all species, those that
have evolved to support periods of drought that can last
up to eight months.
Montane zone: this zone is formed by the mountain
ranges that cross Central America from Northwest to
Southeast, forming the backbone of the subcontinent.
It corresponds to Standley's "tierra templada" (
temperate region) and "tierra fria" (= cold region). Well
developed temperate forests, characterized by oak and
pine, are found in the central highlands of Guatemala
and Honduras and south to northern Nicaragua. Many
elements in the temperate flora of southern Mexico
and Central America appear to have migrated from
northern centers. South of Nicaragua the temperate flora
appears to have more affinity with that of the northern
Andes in South America (Smith & Johnston, 1945:
17). Schlechter places the limit between the Andine
and the North-American influence zones in Guatemala
(Schlechter, 1918: 332). Sapper, however, affirms that:
"Although this forest in its general character, with its
diverse gigantic and luxuriant trees, its rich variety of
orchids ... reminded me completely of the similar and
humid forests of Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua,
it produced however a strange impression, because these
species of plants are generally different from those of
my adoptive motherland, Guatemala, since the region of
the South American flora begins in Costa Rica" (Sapper,
1902: 83). The biodiversity in the temperate regions,
especially in what is commonly known as "rainforest",
is amazing. 60% or more of all orchid species known in
Mesoamerica are found at elevations of over 900 m. In
an example that is not exceptional, Pupulin et al. counted
39 species and 504 individuals of Orchidaceae in one
single tree at San Ramon Forest Reserve, Costa Rica, at
1,350 m above sea level (Pupulin etal., 1995: 49).
The "paramos" (= high, bare and cold regions of
tropical South America) in Costa Rica deserve special
mention. Although almost no orchids are found in this
region, they represent the northern limit of the Andine
'paramo', today restricted to the highest peaks of the
Cordillera de Talamanca. Their peculiar vegetation can
not be found elsewhere in Central America.
The importance ofphytogeographical differentiation
and its relation to biodiversity is clear. If we compare

the totals of species of Orchidaceae in each of the
Central American countries, and using Standley's
terminology, we will find that Costa Rica, Panama
and Guatemala, where the "tierra templada" is larger
in proportion to the total area of the national territory,
have the highest numbers of species. Belize, Honduras
and Nicaragua follow, with a larger proportion of
"tierra caliente Atlantica" and total numbers of species
that are significantly lower. El Salvador, finally, has the
smallest number of species and this corresponds with
the largest proportion of "tierra caliente Pacifica".


"Then they ordered the Creation and the growth
of the trees and vines and the birth of life and the
c ( ,,..,, fman".
Popol Vuh, XVI Century5

The area of influence of the Chibcha culture. The
Chibcha culture extended its influence from Colombia
to the North, reaching Panama, Costa Rica (with the
exception of the Nicoya peninsula) and part of the
eastern coast of Nicaragua (the Coast of the Miskitos)
and Honduras. There are no written documents that
could explain the relations of the indigenous population
of southern Central America with nature in prehispanic
times. However, archaeology has discovered what could
be the first representations of orchids before Columbus.
Pieces of golden jewelry, dating probably from the VIII
Century (A. C.), and found in the valley of El General,
Costa Rica, that are popularly known as eagles or
vultures, show a surprising resemblance to the labellum
ofOncidium cebolleta (Jacq.) Sw. Costa Rican naturalist
Anastasio Alfaro (1865-1951) was the first to observe
this likeness. While describing Oncidium cebolleta,
Alfaro says: "... the sepals and petals are spotted with
brown and are so small that two of them hide behind the
labellum; this resembles a small eagle cast in gold, of
sixteen millimeters, pure yellow with the crown spotted
red-brown." (Alfaro, 1935: 19) (Fig. 4A).
Atwood and Mora de Retana confirm Alfaro's
observation: "In the Museo Nacional and Gold Museum
at San Jose are exhibited numerous gold artifacts
labeled as ciguilas (eagles) and zopilotes (vultures),

5 The Popol Vuh, or 'Book of the Community' of the Mayans, was written in the language of the Quiche shortly after the Spanish
conquest, with the help of the Latin alphabet, and translated into Spanish in the first years of the XVIII Century by friar Francisco
Xim6nez (1666-1729).

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

but we believe that they resemble the animated lips of
Oncidium cebolleta. The general shape is consistent
with this orchid, and the use of gold seems appropriate.
More convincingly, some of the artifacts are life-size
and others display what can be interpreted as the typical
callus of the orchid animated as the belly and claws
of a bird." And they continue: "Oncidium cebolleta is
known to have been used by pre-Columbian Americans
in Mexico, perhaps as a hallucinogenic drug. In view of
these observations, we believe that the significance of
the gold artifacts needs to be reconsidered" (Atwood &
Mora de Retana, 1992: text to plate 1467) (Fig. 4B). And
Lawler confirms: "Oncidium cebolleta (Jacq.) Sw.: The
alkaloid-containing orchid is an important replacement
for peyote among the Taraumaras of Mexico and may be
The Bribri Indians from Costa Rica and Panama call
this species suler kili ("symbol of the spear") and use it
as a medicine against heartache. "They cut the plant in
little pieces, then crush it and seeth it; let it cool. Adults
must drink half a glass and infants one spoonful,
three times a day" (Garcia Segura, 1994: 52). In the
language of the Cabecar, it is called suLegLi and they
say it cures colics. "You crush three stems, put them in
cold water and drink the juice, without heating it. You
must drink it every now and then, until your stomach
feels better" (Palmer, 1992: 104). From the fact that
the pre-Columbian goldsmiths represented precisely
this orchid can be inferred that they gave it a special,
possibly sacred value. Oncidium cebolleta, a species
that is found from Mexico to northern South America,
contains alkaloids with hallucinogenic properties, and
my conclusion is that this orchid played an important
part in indigenous rituals.
Hernando Colon, in the account of his father's fourth
voyage, written in 1521, describes the interchange
between the Indians of Cariay (today Port Limon,
Costa Rica) and the Spaniards: "Seeing that we were
men of peace, they showed great desire to obtain
things from us in exchange for their own, which were
arms, cotton blankets and shirts, and small eagles of
guanines6 which they carried hanging from their necks,
in the same way we carry the Agnus Dei or any other
relic" (Incer, 1990: 46). From the account of Hernando
Colon we may deduct again the religious importance
of the eagles in the culture of those Indians.
6 Guamnes: gold of low fineness alloyed with copper.

We have information from another culture, close
to that of the Chibchas that utilized hallucinogenic
fungi that seems to confirm this theory: "The Sinu
culture of Colombia (from 1200 to 1600) has yielded
many enigmatic gold pectorals with mushroom-like
representations. They may imply the existence of a cult
using these intoxicating fungi... Many of the pectorals
have winglike structures, possibly signifying magic
flight, a frequent characteristic of hallucinogenic
intoxication" (Schultes et al., 1992: 65). In the Darien,
the border region between Panama and Colombia,
the Choco Indians still mix the flowers of Cycnoches
tonduzii Schltr. with genipab (= Genipa americana
L., from the Rubiaceae) and rub the mixture on their
hands to bring luck to the fishermen (Duke, 1956:
194). Finally, Donald Beaton, gardener of Sir William
Middleton, quotes George U. Skinner in a letter to
John Lindley (April 24, 1841): "Laelia superbiens ... is
one of the few plants whose magnificent flowers attract
the notice of the Indians of Panama; they carry it about
with them, and plant it before their doors...".

The northern region of Central America before the
Spanish conquest

"Zan tlaocolxochitl, tlaocolcuicatl on mani
Mexico nican ha in Tlatilolco, in yece ye oncan on
neiximachoyan, ohuaya. "
("Only sad flowers, sad songs, are here in Mexico, in
Tlatilolco, in this place these alone are known, alas"
in Brinton, 1890: 82-83)

The zeal of the Catholic Church in its efforts to
christianize the indigenous populations led to the
destruction of hundreds of documents that could
have thrown light on many unknown aspects of the
prehispanic history and culture of these people. One
of the saddest episodes occurred in the village of Mani
(Yucatan) in 1562, when the infamous Franciscan
Diego de Landa (1524-1579) presided over an Auto
de Fe in which he caused to be burned some 5,000
idols and 27 rolls of Maya codices, which he could
not read and described as "work of the devil". "We
found a great number of books... and since they
only contained superstitions and perfidies of the
devil, we burned them all..." (Landa, 1978). Eduardo
Galeano remembers the moment in a dramatic way:

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"Fray Diego de Landa throws into the flame, one
after the other, the books of the Mayans. The inquisitor
curses Satan, and the fire crackles and devours. Around
the incinerator heretics howl with their heads down.
Hung by their feet,flayed with whips, Indians are doused
with boiling wax as the fire flares and the books snap,
as if complaining. Tonight, eight centuries of Mayan
literature turn to ashes. On these long sheets of bark
paper, signs and images spoke: they told of work done
and days spent, iide, dreams and wars ofapeople born
before Christ... In the center the inquisitor burns the
books. Around the huge bonfire, he chastises the readers.
Meanwhile, the authors, artist-priests dead years or
centuries ago, drink chocolate in the fresh shade of the
first tree of the world. They are at peace, because they
died knowing that memory cannot be burned. Will not
what they painted be sung and danced through the times
of the times?" (Galeano, 1985: 137) (Fig. 4C).
After most of the Mayan manuscripts were lost, our
remaining sources of information about the knowledge
and use of orchids by the inhabitants of prehispanic
northern Central America come to us from the Aztec
world, whose center of power, Tenochtitlan, lies outside
of the geographic area of our present study. However,
several arguments speak in favor of establishing a valid
relationship between the information that we have from
the Aztec world and the knowledge that the peoples
from other parts of Central America had about orchids:
a) Aztec knowledge about orchids had been
transmitted to them by the preceding civilizations,
especially the Maya. The fact that most species of
Orchidaceae known and used by the Aztecs are
found in areas that, until today, still show strong
evidence of the ancient Maya culture gives strength
to this argument. The following is the geographical
distribution in the ancient Maya regions of some of
the species known by the Aztecs:
*Arpophyllum spicatum La Llave & Lex.: Veracruz,
Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guatemala
*Artorima erubescens (Lindl.) Dressler & Pollard:
*Bletia campanulata La Llave & Lex.: Oaxaca,
*Catasetum integerrimum Hooker: Veracruz,
Campeche, Chiapas, Guatemala
*Euchile citrina (La Llave & Lex.) Withner:
Veracruz, Oaxaca

*Encyclia pastoris (La Llave & Lex.) Schltr.:
Veracruz, Oaxaca
*Govenia liliacea (La Llave & Lex.) Lindl.:
Chiapas, Guatemala
*Govenia superba (La Llave & Lex.) Lindl.:
Veracruz, Guatemala
*Laelia anceps Lindl.: Veracruz, Oaxaca,
*Laelia autumnalis Lindl.: Oaxaca
*Laelia speciosa (Kunth) Schltr.: Veracruz, Oaxaca
*Myrmecophila tibicinis (Batem.) Rolfe: Yucatan,
Quintana Roo, Guatemala
Vanilla planifolia Andrews: Veracruz, Oaxaca,
Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Guatemala

b) The Mexican tribes extended their cultural and
economical influence to regions as distant from
its political center as the Lake of Nicaragua or the
Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, long before the
arrival of the Spanish conquerors. In his account of
the archaeological explorations of Carl Bovallius on
an island in the Lake of Nicaragua in 1882, Linne
comments: "The Mexican colony that has been
found in the neighborhood left few traces, but the
strangers who came from so far enriched the art of
these regions with the Feathered Serpent and other
demons" (Linne, S., 1960: 126). Dr. A. Chapman
comments that the long distance trade of these
merchants [the Aztecs] had the Mayans as main
partners, but that they traveled as far as the border
between Costa Rica and Panama (Chapman, 1959).
Braswell gives numerous examples to demonstrate
the interaction between the Mayans of the classical
period and the Mexican cultures before the Aztecs
(Braswell, 2003). Coe affirms that elements of
the Maya culture had penetrated to the center of
Mexico during the turbulent times at the end of the
classical period (Coe & Coe, 1996: 71). The Aztec
knowledge of the medicinal and economical uses
of many orchid species, inherited in part from the
Mayans, spread thus throughout Central America.

The most important source for the understanding of
Aztec knowledge about plants and nature is, without
doubt, friar Bemardino de Sahagun (1499?-1590),
whose work is recognized as the main chronicle of the
prehispanic period (Fig. 4D). He arrived in Mexico
in 1529, as an instructor at the Imperial College of

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

FIGURE 4. A Oncidium cebolleta (Jacq.) Sw.: comparison between the labellum and a golden "eagle" of the Costa Rican
Indians. Illustration by P. Casasa. B -Don Pedro, last Indian king from the Talamanca region in Costa Rica, decorated with
the 'eagles'. From the book Costa Rica en Blanco y Negro: 1880-1950, published by the Banco Nacional de Costa Rica,
1998. C -Guatemala: Mayan hieroglyphs on the famous 'Leyden-plate'. In http://users.skynet.be/fa039055/forgtgtm.
htm. The Leyden-plate is ajadeite plaque, engraved on both sides, showing Mayan hieroglyphs and numbers. It was found
in 1864 in Guatemala. D -Bernardino de Sahagun (1499?-1590). In Catholic Encyclopedia, 2003.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.



FIGURE 5. A Arrival of the Spaniards in Mexico. Florentine Codex. B -Ix chel, the Maya goddess of medicine. Dresden
Codex. C -Plant of tzacutli, Florentine Codex. Dibble & Anderson, 1963, fig. 665. D -tzacux6chitl xiuitl (Bletia
campanulata), Florentine Codex. Dibble & Anderson, 1963, fig. 721b.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco (G6mez-Pompa, 1993: 29)
and dedicated the rest of his life to the observation
and study of the customs, language and history of its
ancient people. Since 1540 he dedicated himself with
intelligence, method and perseverance to the great work
of his life: the study of the things of Mexico before the
arrival of Cortes. Between 1547 and 1577 he wrote the
History of the things of New Spain (Sahagun, 1988).
"With the permanent help of old men, of his trilingual
students (Nahuatl, Spanish and Latin) and of scribes, he
compiled and described everything about the life of the
ancient Mexicans.... (Ballan, 1991: 260). "Schemes of
friars of his same order moved King Philip II to collect
all versions and copies of Sahagun's work, fearing that
the Indians would remain attached to their beliefs if
they were preserved in their native tongue. Following
this order, Sahagun handed over to his superior, friar
Rodrigo de Sequera, a copy in Spanish and Mexican.
This version was taken by father Sequera to Europe in
1580 and is today known as the Manuscript or Copy of
Sequera, identified as the Florentine Codex" (Tudela,
1952: 1092). It is beautifully illustrated and owes its
name to the Medicea Laurenziana Library of Florence,
where it is conserved (Fig. 5A). The work of Sahagun
has an extraordinary value because it describes the
customs and uses of the Aztecs based on witnesses who
had lived in the century before the Spanish conquest.
It is in volume XI (Animals, plants and minerals of the
Indian geography), where we find most information
about the knowledge and use of orchids by the ancient
Aztecs (Dibble & Anderson, 1963). All authors who
have subsequently studied this period have used
Sahagun as a primary source of reference.

Orchids in the cultures ofMayans andAztecs. Called
by the Mayans sisbic and by the Aztecs tlilx6chitl
or mecax6chitl, interest in vanilla (Vanilla planifolia
Andrews) began in the indigenous prehispanic world
and continues to our days. Therefore, we will only
mention vanilla here as a fundamental species in the
prehispanic orchidology of Central America. We will
refer to it later in a more extensive form (see next
chapter, "The history of Vanilla") (Fig. 5B).
Besides vanilla, the inhabitants of prehispanic
Central America used other orchids as medicinal
plants. Catasetum maculatum, was used among the
Mayans in Yucatan to heal sores and tumors (Appel

Kunow, 2003: 115). Balick et al. (2000) mention also
the medicinal use given by the Mayans in Belize to
Lockhartia pittieri Schltr., Oncidium cebolleta and
Sobralia fragans Lindl. (Balick et al., 2000: 163,
170). Among the Aztecs, Arpophyllum spicatum and
Encyclia pastoris, were used against dysentery, as
was years later documented by Francisco Hernandez
(Hagsater et al., 2006: 41). The bulbs of Euchile
citrina were applied on infected wounds, and infusions
ofLaelia autumnalis were a remedy against cough.
Also important was the use of several species that
contain mucilaginous substances to prepare agglutinating
or adhesive products. "... preferred for its mucilaginous
characteristics is Encyclia pastoris" (Garcia Pefia &
Pefia, 1981: 62), known in Nahuatl as tzacutli. Sahagun
describes it as follows: "The branches are slender. It
has stems. Its root is sticky; this is named tzacutli. It is
an adhesive. I glue it." (Fig. 5C). "To prepare it, they
cut the pseudobulbs in slices and dried them in the sun;
then they stored them and, when the time was right,
they soaked them in water to dissolve the mucilage and
give it different uses. This process was in the hands of
apprentices" (Garcia Pefia & Pefia, 1981: 62). Tzacutli
was used as a glue to prepare feather ornaments for
the robes of the priests and as a mordent for pigments.
Other species of orchids used with the same purpose
were: Bletia campanulata (Fig. 5D):"Its foliage is like
that of the tzacutli. It is tall. [Its blossoms] are chili red,
rose, dark blue. It is tender, very tender..." (Dibble &
Anderson, 1963: 211), B. coccinea La Llave & Lex.,
Cranichis speciosa La Llave & Lex., C. tubularis La
Llave & Lex., Govenia liliacea, G. superba and Laelia
autumnalis. "Laelia autumnalis and Laelia speciosa,
were and are still used in the fabrication of candies during
the festivities of the Day of all Souls; it is probable that
this practice was not customary in prehispanic times
but only after the arrival of the Spaniards" (Garcia
Pefia & Pefia, 1981: 63). Among the Mayans, the
pseudobulbs ofMyrmecophila tibicinis were used as help
during childbirth and employed as trumpets and flutes
(Arditti, 1992: 637). Bateman, in 1838, called this plant
Epidendrum tibicinis, referring to the Latin word tibicen,
or trumpeter (Miller, 1959: 353) (Fig. 6A).
But not everything in life is utilitarian. Richard Evans
Schultes wrote in 1992: "The role that horticulture has
played in the ethnobotanical employment of plants is
not often recognized. It is quite generally presumed that

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Unversidad de Costa Rca, 2009.


aboriginal peoples usually do not cultivate plants merely
to beautify their surroundings. The opposite is true in
many, if not most societies. In a number of instances,
it is probable that the species were first ornamentally
valued but were eventually found to be of more practical
value as foods, medicines, narcotics, poisons or for other
economic applications" (cited in Griffiths, 1992). Other
sources confirm what Schultes said. Nuttall mentions
the following example: "The most important of all
the ancient gardens of Mexico was that of Huaxtepec
which Montezuma had inherited from his predecessor,
Montezuma the Elder. Placing Pinotetl as the principal
overseer, he first restored its waterways and then
dispatched messengers to the tropical coastal region
with a request to the Lord of Cuetlaxtla for plants with
roots of the vanilla orchid, of cacao and magnolia trees
and many valuable vegetables" (Nuttall, 1923: 454).
Alvarado Tezozomoc, in his Cr6nica Mexicana, gives
us a detailed description of the gardens of Huaxtepec.
According to him, the most primitive gardens of the
Nahuas were the artificial islands and peninsulas that
were constructed in lagoons (Alvarado Tezozomoc,
1873). Additional information has been furnished by
the accounts of Doctor Cervantes de Salazar, whose
chronicle of Mexico was published in 1565: "In these
flower gardens Montezuma did not allow any vegetables
and fruits to be grown, saying that it was not kingly to
cultivate plants for utility or profit in his pleasance. He
said that vegetable gardens and orchards were for slaves
and merchants" (Nuttall, Z., 1923). Antonio de Solis
indicates that Moctezuma "did not like fruit trees nor
eatable plants in his recreations, but said that orchards
were possessions of ordinary people, seeming more
proper of princes the delight without utility. All were
flowers of rare diversity and fragrance [...] bringing into
his gardens all the genera produced by the benignity of
those lands" (Solis, 1970: 195) (Fig. 6B).
Bateman, citing Francisco Hemandez, indicates the
same: "... for Hemandez assures us, that in Mexico the
Indian chiefs set the highest value on their blossoms
[the orchids], for the sake of their great beauty, strange
figure, and delightful perfume..." (Bateman, 1837-
43: 2). Stanhopea hernandezii (Kunth) Schltr. and S.
tigrina Batem., had great ornamental value during
the prehispanic period, and were called by the Aztecs
coatzontecox6chitl or coatzontemacox6chitl, because
their flowers resemble serpent heads: "It is like the head

of a serpent; that is the way it is by nature" (Dibble
& Anderson, 1963: 211) (Fig. 6C). "[S. hernandezii]
is sought by the Indian Princes because of its beauty
and elegance." (Hagsater et al., 2005: 40). "From
cozticcoatzontecoxochitl, which some authors have
identified asProsthechea citrina, Hemandez tells us that
'the flowers are used to adorn the wreaths, garlands and
bouquets whose use is so frequent among the Indians"
(Hagsater et al., 2005: 41). Artorima erubescens, Laelia
anceps, L. autumnalis, L. speciosa and Oncidium spp.
were also used ornamentally (Tab. 1).
In his notes on the classification of plants by the
Aztecs, Gates says: "The ornamental plants, the
flowers or xochitl, made another grand division, often
with definition of the odor, although beauty was the
desired feature, even with no odor... Among the
orchids, coa-tzonteco-xochitl, snake-head flower, an
Anguloa; another is yellow, the coztic-coa-tzonteco-
xochitl, of the Sobralia" (Gates, 2000). Finally, Acosta
writes that "the Indians are great friends of flowers and
in New Spain more than anywhere else in the world..."
(Acosta, 2003: 265).
Two centuries later, Friar Francisco Ximenez was
one of the first to describe the epiphytic growth of
orchids. In one of his manuscripts, dated in 1722, we
find a beautiful example of the ornamental value they
had for the Mayans in Guatemala: "All those flowers,
although many and diverse, all of them agree to grow
from little onions, whose roots stick to the bark of the
oaks as if they were deeply rooted in the earth and they
grow some leaves somewhat thick, but all different
from the others. And those little onions taken from
those trees are transplanted by many Indians to their
houses, sticking them to another tree and there it roots
and is conserved and gives its flower. And so they have
the trees of their houses full of different flowers that
they bring from the forest" (Ximenez, 1967: 313).

The history of Vanilla. As a constituent of the native
flora, Vanilla planifolia occurs naturally in the moist,
tropical forests of eastern and southern Mexico, Central
America, and northern South America. In Mexico,
its northern limits are found in central Veracruz near
the Gulf Coast, and in Michoacan or Colima on the
Pacific. The true vanilla now found growing wild
in parts of the West Indies probably represents an
escape from cultivation of vines introduced during the

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

TABLE 1 List of the orchids known by Central American Indians during the prehispanic period, with their uses and
vernacular names. Compiled from Garcia Pefia & Pefia (1981), Wright (1958), Xim6nez (1967), Balick et al. (2000), and
Appel Kunow (2003).

Vernacular name

Language Use

spicatum La Llave & Lex. tzauhxilotl Nahuatl Against dysentery
Artornma erubescens (Lmdl) Dressler & Pollard gfiitzl Zapotec Ornamental
Bletia campanulata La Llave & Lex. tzacux6chitl xiuitl Nahuatl Adhesive
Against dysentery
Bletia coccinea Lex. tonalx6chitl Nahuatl Adhesive
Catasetum integerrimum Hook. chitcuuc Maya Adhesive
Mordent for pigments
Catasetum maculatum Kunth chitcuuc Maya To cure wounds and tumors

Cranichis speciosa La Llave & Lex.

Cranichis tubularis La Llave & Lex.

Encycha pastors (La Llave & Lex.) Schltr.

Euchile citrina (La Llave & Lex.) Withner
Govenia hhacea (La Llave & Lex.) Lindl.

Govenia superba (La Llave & Lex.) Lindl.

Laelia anceps Lindl.
Laela autumnais (La Llave & Lex.) Lindl.

Laelia speciosa (Kunth) Schltr.
Lockhartia pittier Schltr.
Myrmecophila tibicims (Batem.) Rolfe

Oncidium cebolleta (Jacq.) Sw.

Oncidium spp.
Sobrahafragans Lindl.
Stanhopea hernandezzi (Kunth) Schltr.

Stanhopea tigrina Batem.

Vanilla plamfoha Andrews




cozticoatzontecox6chitl / auroriqua


tzicx6chitl / giichila


dac kisin

sulkr kili
ru xiquin tucur / ru xiquin choy

chichiltic tepetllavhochitz
zacanatum shanat

Nahuatl Against dysentery
Mordent for pigments
Nahuatl Adhesive
Mordent for pigments
Nahuatl Against dysentery
Mordent for pigments
Nahuatl Treatment of infected wounds
Nahuatl Adhesive
Mordent for pigments
Nahuatl Adhesive
Mordent for pigments
Nahuatl Ornamental
Nahuatl Against cough
Nahuatl Ornamental
Maya Help during childbirth
Maya Employed as trumpets
and flutes
Bribri Medicinal
Cab6car Hallucinogenic
Maya Ornamental
Maya Medicinal
Nahuatl Against tiredness
Nahuatl Ornamental


To aid digestion

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Unversidad de Costa Rwa, 2009.

Botanical name


colonial period. (Bruman, 1948: 361). Oersted wrote,
around 1846, that vanilla dominated among the orchids
of the Atlantic region of Costa Rica (Oersted, 1863).
The Olmecs (ca. 1500 A. C. 400 D. C.) who "not
only engendered Mesoamerica but also brought forth
the first Mesoamerican empire" (Mann, 2006: 235),
possibly transferred to the Mayans the use of the seeds
of cacao (kakawa) for the preparation of a beverage.
According to Maya mithology, Hunahpu gave cacao to
the Maya after humans were created from maize by the
divine grandmother goddess Ixmucane.
The Mayans perfumed this beverage (which we
call today chocolate, from the Nahuatl chocolate) with
different spices, among them chili and vanilla. "Among
the plants that are cultivated to season and perfume the
foods are chili or aji, vanilla ... and other herbs, leaves
and roots" (Morley, 1961: 189). The early Mayans of
Mexico were also familiar with vanilla and its uses, their
name for it being sisbic [or zizbic, as Bruman calls it']
(cited in Reinikka, 1995: 15). A Totonac legend says
that vanilla originated in the deaths of Tzacopontziza
('Morning Star') and Zkatan-oxga ('Running Deer'),
who were killed by the gods for their forbidden love.
In the desolated place of their sacrifice, a single tree
grew (Zkatan-oxga) and shortly later a vine embraced it
(Tzacopontziza). So, the lovers remain together through
the ages. The Totonac called vanilla zacanatum shanat
(= black mother vanilla) (Ecott, 2004: 7-8).
Balick et al. mention the medicinal and ritual use of
vanilla among the native population of Belize (Balick et
al., 2000: 171). Duke, in one of his many ethnobotanical
papers, refers to the use as a perfume of Vanillafragrans
(Salisb.) Ames by the Chocoe Indians in the Panamanian
region of Darien (Duke, 1956: 209). Garcia Pefia &
Pefia refer to V planifolia in the Aztec world: "One of
the oldest records for the utilitarian character of orchids
in America belongs to the Aztec kingdom of Itzcoatl
(1427-1440) in Mexico; it mentions vanilla, the vine
orchid, collected in the eastern coast. This plant was
used as payment for tributes during the kingdoms of
Moctezuma Ilhuiacamina (1440-1469) and Axacayatl
(1469-1482)" (Garcia Pefia & Pefia, 1981: 60). "Some
authors (i.e. Torquemada, 1969) state that vanilla was
part of the tributes paid to the Aztecs by the Totonacs and
other Indian tribes (Fig. 6D) as early as during the reign
of Izc6atl (1427-1440)..." (Hagsater et al., 2005: 47).

Moctezuma (1502-1520) flavored the beverage
chocolatel", a cacao drink, with the ripe fruit of this
orchid and with honey" (Garcia Pefia & Pefia, 1981:
60). Bemal Diaz del Castillo, again referring to
Emperor Moctezuma, tells us: "... from time to time
they brought him cups of fine gold, with a certain
beverage made of cacao, that they said was for success
with women..." (Diaz del Castillo, 1916: 185). "Then,
by himself in his house, his chocolate was served: green
cacao-pods, honeyed chocolate, flowered chocolate,
flavored with green vanilla" (according to Sahagun in
Coe & Coe, 1996: 89). "Vanilla was not only the most
widely used flavoring, but was also recommended to
aid digestion, and was considered good for the heart,
the stomach, as an appetizer, diuretic and to attenuate
viscous humors" (Garcia Pefia & Pefia, 1981: 61).
Sahagun says about vanilla: "Mecax6chitl: Its
growing place is the hot lands, at the water's edge. It is
like a slender cord, a little rough. It is of pleasing odor,
perfumed. Its scent is dense; one's nose is penetrated.
It is potable. It cures internal [ailments]" (Dibble &
Anderson, 1963: 192 (Fig. 6E). However, according
to Gates (2000: 133) mecax6chitl is Piper amalago,
L. and not Vanilla planifolia. Leon, J., 2003 (pers.
comm.) confirms this stating that the illustration does
not represent an orchid. He also calls it tlilx6chitl: "It
is cord-like... Its bean is green, but it is black when
dried... It is perfumed, fragrant, precious, good,
potable, a medicine. Roasted, this is mixed with
chocolate" (Dibble & Anderson, 1963: 198) (Fig. 6F).
According to Reinikka, the first reference to tropical
orchids in the western hemisphere is the description
and illustration of vanilla in the Codex Badianus from
1552 (Reinikka, M. A., 1995: 15) (Fig. 7).
Francisco Hemandez published a manuscript in
which figured a woodcut of two fruits and a portion of
the vine of vanilla, under the nameArico aromatico, with
the native appellation tlilx6chitl (Fig. 8A). Hemandez
writes about three aphrodisiac spices that the Aztecs used
in their chocolate. The second of Hernndez's reputedly
aphrodisiac trio was tlilx6chitl ('black flower'), none
other than our familiar vanilla (Vanilla planifolia).
Hernndez makes a distinction calling chocolate the
beverage that contains only cacao and seeds ofpochotl
(Ceiba spp.) and atexli that was flavored with vanilla
(Coe, 1994: 104-105). Hernndez, following the

According to Bruman, zizbic seems to refer to Vanilla claviculata, an inferior species that is not the vanilla of commerce.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

400 gourd bowls of
this shape, for
ikini t.8 cacao


FIGURE 6. A Indian child playing the 'trumpet' with the hollow pseudobulb ofMyrmecophila tibicinis. In Batemann, 1837-
43: 76. B Gardens ofAncient Mexico. Florentine Codex. Dibble & Anderson, 1963, fig. 679. C Coatzontemacox6chitl
(Stanhopea tigrina). Florentine Codex. Dibble & Anderson, 1963, fig. 719. D -Representation of tributes in the Codex
Mendoza, in Berdan & RieffAnawalt, 1997, pl. 46v. E -Mecax6chitl. Florentine Codex. Dibble & Anderson, 1963, fig.
718. F -Tlilxchitl. Florentine Codex. Dibble & Anderson, 1963, fig. 717.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Umversidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


0 : I


P/;~A~fr&i f/; nseno4Z~rl';~ 9t/O~~ir~ntrfuiQnal 'sri~

npK 4" Wff gPoea n.ew Jn7l0^I/

vnni Asatac n*I*C0bCP k cenovuvbbr iyems
rrp/6~r~~~~u~k eatma reinftrm i ~42"~S""ir Wa~rn~

snaC^mmm frawn yoiew4* ^^-^~
cJm*nr ec^^tr>-utk1' mMSwr4eccairWfa#
pUrie/am c naftalMn jCnc IJfaref ibe
~I CC~lrdb O~iJI ~:lITJmetoI~~~"~
00 "?$6-ir~b

FIGURE 7.Mecax6chitl or Tlilx6chitl (first from the left). Plate 104 of the Codex Badianus. In Ospina, 1997:1161.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America 21

C xN

R- ;N~I~~~


FIGURE 8. A-Arico aromatico tlilx6chitl. Hernandez, 1959. B Sixteenth-century woodcut showing the four temperaments.
In Coe & Coe, 1996: 127. C -Gathering vanilla. In Dampier, 1998: 121-122.

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/ /

FIGURE 9. Vanilla (labeled as Vanilla mexicana). No. 1407 of the illustrations of the botanical expedition of Sess6 and
Mocifo in the Torner Collection, Hunt Botanical Institute for Botanical Documentation.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

principles of Galenic theory of curing by contraries,
so that "hot" fever called for a "cold" drug, continues:
"Adding the mecax6chitl flavoring to chocolate not
only gives it an agreeable taste, but because it, like most
cacao spices, is 'hot' by nature, it 'warms the stomach,
perfumes the breath... [and] combats poisons, alleviates
intestinal pains and colics', and so on" (Coe & Coe,
1996: 123). It should be recalled that in Galen's theory
and practice, the body contained four humors (black
bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood), and that good
health depended on a balance between them. Each of
these humors had specific properties 'hot' or 'cold'
and 'dry' or 'moist'. In the European Baroque Age,
the humoral theory was extended to include all sorts
of phenomena and conditions, such as the divisions of
the day, the four seasons, and even the cardinal points.
Those with too much blood were sanguine, those with
too much phlegm were phlegmatic, those with too much
yellow bile were choleric, and those with too much
black bile were melancholic (Fig. 8B).
Alonso de Molina began the introduction of
the present name of vanilla, by translating in his
dictionary the word tlilx6chitl as "ciertas vaynicas de
olores" (= certain fragrant little pods) (Molina, 1571:
148). Referring to the town of Lucu, on the banks of
the Belize River, Diego Lopez de Cogolludo, in his
History of Yucatan, indicates that Friar Bartolom6
de Fuensalida saw there, in 1618, the best achiote
annattoo tree) he had ever seen, together with fruits
of vanilla that the natives called cizbiques (Lopez de
Cogolludo, 1954). The observations of Dampier in
the second half of the XVII century (see later), about
the use of vanilla by the natives of Bocas del Toro
(Panama) let us assume that knowledge about the uses
of vanilla spread to the rest of Central America after the
conquest of Mexico. It is possible that this knowledge
was brought from Yucatan to Panama by the Miskitos,
who in the XVII century made frequent incursions to
the territories located to the north and south of their
dominions. The Miskitos and Sumas of the coasts of
Nicaragua and Honduras used Vanilla that they called
diti bainia, to flavor a beverage "made of cacao and
maize" (Conzemius, 1984: 198).
That vanilla was brought into Europe by the
Spaniards in 1510 (as mentioned by Reinikka, Jacquet,

and other authors) is highly improbable, since the
first Spanish expedition to the mainland was that of
Ojeda and Nicuesa in 1508 to Panama, and we cannot
find any reference to this orchid until the conquest of
Mexico by Hernn Cortes in 1519.
The Flemish botanist Charles de l'Ecluse (1526-
1609), also known as Carolus Clusius, in his Exoticum
liber decem, provided the first botanical description of
vanilla in 1605, as Lobus oblongus aromaticus. The
description is from a plant provided by Hugh Morgan,
pharmacist to Queen Elizabeth I. (Jacquet, 1994: 78).
It was this Morgan who first called attention to vanilla
as a spice that could have other medicinal and culinary
uses, besides being a flavoring for chocolate. Vanilla
begins to separate from chocolate and starts a life on its
own. L'Ecluse made his first experience with American
plants through the works of Nicolas Monardes (1493-
1588)8, that he had read during his travels to Spain and
which he later translated into Latin (Laca Menendez de
Luarca, 1999: 98).
In 1658 the term vanilla appeared in a work by
William Piso, who added that this name was given by
the Spaniards." (Reinikka, 1995: 15). According to
Piso, who again follows Galenic theory, vanilla is "hot
in the 3rd degree," and the mecax6chitl spice "hot in
the 4'h degree" and "dry in the 3rd degree". Piso had
taken part, as official surgeon, in the Dutch expedition
to the north of Brazil under the command of the Count
of Nassau-Siegen, in 1638. He assumed charge of
botanical studies insofar as they pertained to medicine
(Steele, 1964: 14).
Friar Bemab6 Cobo, in his history of the New
World, published in 1653 (Cobo, 1892) gives a detailed
account of the necessary procedures to cure the pods
of vanilla, which he praises as "very precious to put
into the chocolate", stating that the best vanilla is that
which grows in Chiapas (Perez de Anton, 2005: 122).
William Dampier observed vanilla plants growing
in the south of Mexico (1676) and in Bocas del Toro
(today Panama), in 1681. In his work A New Voyage
Round the World he mentions that the Indians sold
vanilla to the Spaniards and describes the method that
they followed to cure the fruits: "This Cod grows on a
small Vine which climbs about and supports itself by the
neighboring Trees. It first bears a Flower, from where

8 Monardes, N., 1574, Primera y Segunda y TerceraPartes de laHistora Medicinal de las Cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias
Occidentales que sirven enMedicina. Sevilla.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


the Cod afterwards proceeds. It is first green, but when
ripe turns yellow. Then the Indians, whose Manufacture
it is, and who sell it cheap to the Spaniards, gather it and
lay it in the Sun, which makes it soft. Then it changes
to a Chestnut colour. They frequently press it between
their fingers which makes it flat.... These Vines grow
plentifully at Boccatoro, where I have gathered and tried
to cure them, but could not, which makes me think that
the Indians have some Secret that I do not know of to
cure them... They are commonly sold for Threepence a
Cod among the Spaniards in the West Indies... for they
are much used in chocolate to perfume it. Some will use
them in Tobacco, for they give a delicate scent. Could
we have learnt the art of it, several of us would have
gone to Boccatoro yearly and cured them" (Dampier,
1998: 121) (Fig. 8C).
Francesco Redi (1626-97), a talented Italian scientist
and physician to the Medici court, published his
Experimenta circa res diversas naturales (Redi, 1675),
a work on 'diverse natural matters, in particular those
carried to us from the Indies'. Redi's work contains
a detailed illustration of a vanilla pod, and what is
certainly the first microscopic view of a vanilla seed.
In 1701, the English traveler Ellis Veryard published
his Choice remarks, concerning his voyage to Spain
during the latter half of the XVII century. His account
of how the Spaniards manufactured their chocolate
says: "...Next you are to add twenty-five Bainillas ...
finely powder'd, proceeding to mix..." (Veryard, 1701).
In 1703, the French botanist Charles Plumier (1646-
1704), who had seen the plants during his travels to
the Antilles, described the genus as Vanilla (Plumier,
1703), although in 1749 Carl von Linn6 theorized that
Vanilla was the source, as well as a species, of the
Orchis genus, prescribing it as a powerful aphrodisiac
elixir (Reinikka, 1995: 18-19). Robert Miller, in 1739,
collected seeds and cuttings of Vanilla planifolia near
Campeche, from which the cultivation in greenhouses
of this species began in England.
Denis Diderot (1718-1784), the great French
encyclopedist, disapproved of the tastiest flavorings
that people added to chocolate, which did nothing
but add "fire" to the body. He warned about the use
of vanilla: "The pleasant scent and heightened taste it

gives to chocolate has made it very popular, but long
experience having taught us that it is extremely heating,
its use has become less frequent, and people who
prefer to care for their health rather than please their
senses abstain completely." (Diderot, 1778: 785). The
aphrodisiac properties of vanilla were also mentioned
by the German physician Bezaar Zimmerman, who in
1762 published a treatise entitled "On experiences",
in which he claimed that "no fewer than 342 impotent
men by drinking vanilla decoctions, have changed into
astonishing lovers of at least as many women" (Siegel,
2008: 145). Vanilla made its debut in the United States
in 1789, when the U.S. ambassador to France, Thomas
Jefferson, had his secretary in Paris ship him a bundle
of fifty cured beans wrapped in newspaper. Thomas
Jefferson's recipe for vanilla ice cream can be found in
his papers at the Library of Congress (Gand & Weiss,
2006: 12).
In 1753, Linne, in his Species Plantarum described
vanilla asEpidendron vanilla, and it was his countryman
Olof Swartz who reestablished the genus Vanilla in
1799 (Swartz, 1799: 66). Finally, in November 1808,
Henry Charles Andrews (1794-1830) published the
description of Vanilla planifolia that is valid today
in The Botanists Repository of New and Rare Plants
(Jackson & Andrews, 1808). The description was
based on a plant cultivated by Charles Greville that
had flowered the year before (Soto Arenas, 1999: 18).
A beautiful illustration of Vanilla sp. is included in the
Torner Collection that contains the illustrations of the
expedition of Sess6 y Mocifio to New Spain (Fig. 9).
In 1835, Lindley separated the genus Vanilla from
the Orchidaceae and proposed it as the type for a new
family, the Vanillaceae (Lindley, 1835: 73)9.
Orlando W. Roberts, English traveler along the
Central American East Coast in the years before the
independence of the region from Spain, comments
in his book that the Indians in the region of Darien
form parties for drinking preparations of cocoa, of
which they drink immense quantities A few pages
later he tells that they "also produce vanilla, a valuable
plant..." (Roberts, 1965: 77, 80). With regard to the
cultivation of vanilla in the region of the San Juan
River he writes: "The country from San Juan River to

9 Bateman, in the introduction to his The Orchidaceae from Mexico and Guatemala, says: "In this list the Vanilla is not included,
as that plant has recently been separated (no doubt, most judiciously) by Dr. Lindley, from the natural order "Orchidaceae" and
constituted the type of a new order of its own".

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

this point [Bluefields, Nicaragua] abounds in vanilla
of the finest quality. This plant climbs with ease to the
top of the highest tree. At a distance the leaves slightly
resemble those of the vine; the flowers are of a white
colour, intermixed with red and yellow, when these fall
off, they are quickly succeeded by the pods, growing
in bunches not unlike the plantain, and generally of
the thickness of a child's finger. The pods are green
at first, grow yellow, and finally brown; the method
used to preserve the fruit, is to gather it when yellow,
before the pods begin to open or burst it is then laid
in small heaps for the space of three of four days to
ferment. The fruit is afterwards spread in the sun to
dry; and when about half dried, flattened with the hand,
and rubbed over with cocoa, palm or other oil: it is
once more exposed to the sun, to be fully dried, rubbed
over with oil a second time, put in small parcels, and
closely covered over with the dried leaves of the
plantain. [...] The vanilla plant is also found on most
parts of the Mosquito Shore, and in the neighborhood
of Breo del Rero and Chiriqui Lagoon; it requires heat,
moisture, and shade, to bring it to perfection, and when
used in that state it gives a most delicious flavour to
coffee, chocolate, etc., forming an important article of
commerce, especially among the Spaniards" (Roberts,
1965: 99-100).
Carl Berthold Seemann, in 1848, indicated that
"[the] fruit of the Vanilla (Vanilla sp.) and Vanilla
chica (Sobralia sp. or Selenipedium chica) are
spices employed in flavoring sweetmeats, chocolate
and puddings" (Seemann, 1852-1857: 69). Moritz
Wagner and Carl Scherzer, in 1853, observed Vanilla
plants growing wild in the region of Miravalles, in
northwestern Costa Rica: "The parasitic plant of the
family of the orchids that provides the precious vanilla
(Epidendron vanilla), with long, slim and aromatic
ovaries, grows wild in the lower and shady places near
the banks of the rivers"). And near the Rio Grande
(Pacific Coast): "Very frequent, especially in shady
places, are several species of vanilla that may be
distinguished for their thick leaves, their multicolored
flowers of marvelous forms and their siliquous and
thin fruits which exhale a delicious aroma" (Wagner
& Scherzer, 1974: 168, 225). Wells described the
cultivation and trade of Vanilla in the Honduran
region of Olancho, and gave it the scientific name

of Vanilla axillans [sic] (Wells, 1857)10. Wells states
that Vanilla shows preference for two species of host
trees, "indio desnudo" (Bursera simaruba (L.) Sarg.)
and "guachipilin" (Casearia sylvestris Sw.), and gives
a detailed description of plant habitat, flowers, and
fruits. As to cultivation, Wells mentions a promising
experimental plantation in the village of Pespire. The
greatest part of the Vanilla from Olancho was taken to
the market of Tegucigalpa, although a small amount
was sent to Trujillo, on the North coast, and to Belize.
According to Wells, in good localities a diligent
native could collect between two and four pounds a
day. Hartwell (1967-1971) includes Vanilla in his
list of plants used against cancer. And more recently,
Alan Hirsch, M.D., of Smell and Taste Treatment
and Research Foundation Ltd., in Chicago, studied
the relationship between smell and arousal. He found
that several smells increased blood flow to the penis,
including lavender, pumpkin pie, doughnut and black
licorice. However, smelling vanilla caused the greatest
degree of arousal in older men (Siegel, 2008: 145).
For over 300 years after its discovery by Heman
Cortes, vanilla was only produced in Mexico.
Cultivation was tried in many countries, but the
delicate orchid never bore fruit. The mystery was not
solved until 1838, when the Belgian Charles Morren
discovered that common insects cannot pollinate the
flower and that its natural fertilizers, bees from the
genus Eulaema, do not survive outside Mexico. Morren
developed the method to pollinate vanilla flowers
by hand (Morren, 1838). Soon the French began to
cultivate vanilla in their colonies in the Indic Ocean,
the Dutch in Indonesia and the British in Jamaica and
India. Finally, in 1858, Gobley isolated vanillin, the
crystalline component of vanilla, opening the way to
industrial production of substitutes for V planifolia.
"In spite of competition from other tropical regions,
in spite of the large-scale commercial production of
synthetic vanillin, Mexican vanilla has held its own.
At its best it has a quality unequaled elsewhere, and its
excellence is recognized by its great demand" (Bruman,
1948: 372). In the region of Totonicapan, the cultivation
of Vanilla is an important economic factor. "The
Totonacs found the way of growing vanilla, planting
it in acahuales (secondary forests), and learned how to
guide and prune the plants" (Hagsater et al., 2005: 50).

10 Wells means Vanilla axillans Mill., a Mexican species described in 1768.

LANKESTERIANA9( -2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


The following species of Vanilla can be found in our

V hartii Rolfe
V helleri Hawkes
V inodora Schiede
V insignis Ames
V odorata Presl
Vphaeantha Rchb. f.

Vplanifolia G. Jackson
V pompona Schiede
V sativa Schiede
V sylvestris Schiede
V trigonocarpa Hoehne


"Nature does not proceed by leaps and bounds"
Carl von Linne

The Codex Badianus. The first descriptions of orchids
that we know of for the Americas are in the Aztec
Herbal of 1552 (Ospina, 1997: 1160), written in Mexico
with the title Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis
(De la Cruz & Badiano, 1996). Its author was the
Aztec physician Martin de la Cruz and it was translated
from Nahuatl into Latin by another native named Juan
Badiano. It is therefore commonly known as the Codex
Badianus or Codex de la Cruz-Badianus. There are
two versions, one says that the work was for Emperor
Charles V, and the other that the work was conceived
by Francisco, the son of the Viceroy don Antonio
de Mendoza, as a gift for Phillip II (by now King of
Spain), in an effort to demonstrate that the Indians were
"knowledgeable, capable of learning from Europeans
and very worthy of support from the Viceroyalty and
the protection of the King" (Gomez, 2008: 82). De la
Cruz and Badiano were two outstanding students of the
Imperial College of Santa Cruz de Tlalelolco, were they
met Fray Bemardino de Sahagun.
During the early XVII century, the Latin version
became part of the library of Cardinal Francesco
Barberini, and it is therefore also known as Codex
Barberini (G6mez-Pompa, 1993: 29). In 1990, during
a visit of Pope John Paul II to Mexico, the manuscript
was presented as a gift from the Vatican to the Mexican
people and is since then preserved at the National
Library of Mexico. The first Spanish version, although
incomplete, was published in 1955 by Francisco
Guerra. "It is not only the earliest complete Mexican
medical text which has thus come to light, but it is
the only medical text known to be the work of Aztec
Indians" (Emmart & Sigerist, 1940: xiii).

In the previous chapter (The history of vanilla),
reference was already made to tlilx6chitl (Vplanifolia)
that, according to this codex, was used, with a mixture
of other plants, in a prescription for viatores presidium
(Fig. 7), namely "protection for travelers".
pulverized herbs wrapped in a magnolia leaf and hung
around the neck so that the voyager could 'catch and
inhale the very redolent odor' (Benzing, 1990: 1).
Another orchid by the name Tzacouhxochitl (from
tzacouh = glue and xochitl = flower) was used as an
adhesive and in a concoction prescribed for timoris vel
micropsychiae remedium, that could be translated as a
"remedy against shyness". This orchid is either Bletia
campanulata or Catasetum maculatum (Ospina, 1997:
According to Ospina, the illustrations of the Aztec
Herbal also represent the first attempt in the Americas
to coordinate the floristic or medical descriptions of
plants with their ecological circumstances. The plants
are depicted in full, that is, including flowers, leaves,
stems and roots, and around the roots there are various
pictorial symbols that undoubtedly refer to the ecology
of the plant. Thus, a blue background coloring...
would indicate that the plant grew near the water...;
the relationship between plants and ants is shown by
clear pictures of these insects in the plant's roots, and
so on. This Herbal will, therefore, stand as our first
known reference for future works on the orchids and
their ecology in the Americas (Ospina, 1997: 1160-61).

The expedition of Francisco Hernandez to New
Spain (1570-1577). It was in the year of 1570 when
Spain started her first scientific expedition to the New
World. In charge was Francisco Hemandez (1517-
1587), with the title of First Physician General of the
New Indies, Islands and Terra Firma of the Ocean; he
carried instructions to write a natural history of these
lands and to "draw the herbs and other natural things"
(San Pio Aladren & Puig-Samper, 2000: 11). It is quite
possible that the works of Badiano and Sahagun had
a strong influence on Emperor Philip II and led him
to finance the most import botanical expedition of
his time (G6mez-Pompa, 1993: 30). Hemandez was
the first European to investigate the flora of Mexico,
although from a medicinal rather than a botanical
standpoint (Hemsley, 1887: 117-18). Besides the
scholar, three illustrators, three scribes, a cosmographer

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

and several Indian medicine-men took part in the
expedition. On March 1, 1571, Hemandez presented
his title of Protomedico in the palace of the Viceroy, in
Veracruz. During the following six years, the expedition
collected more than 3,000 plants, 500 animals and 35
minerals. "As the first expedition of natural history ever
sent out by a government, the Hemandez venture is a
landmark in the annals of botanical science. Although
he classified his plants largely according to unscientific
Aztec standards, and his descriptions are often too
brief or vague, Hemandez preserved a body of ethno-
botanical lore that probably otherwise would have been
lost" (Steele, 1964: 7) (Fig. 10A).
In 1577, Hemandez returned to Spain, having
completed a total of six volumes of text and ten volumes
of illustrations of what he called Rerum Medicarum
Novae Hispaniae Thesaurus, seu Plantarum,
Animalium, Mineralium Mexicanarum Historia or
Natural History of New Spain. The work languished in
the library of El Escorial and Hemandez died in 1587
without ever having seen it published. "This pattern
of failure would be repeated many times over, for the
eyes of Spanish authorities were invariably bigger
than their stomachs when it came to digesting the vast
quantities of botanical knowledge unceasingly offered
up by the Indies" (Steele, 1964: 7).
In 1580, Philip II ordered the first physician of
Naples, Dr. Nardo Antonio Recchi, to distil the essence
of Hernndez's findings. In doing his duty, however,
Recchi not only excluded all of the natural history that
seemed of no use in medicine, but ended in publishing
nothing either (Steele, 1964: 6). Fortunately, Friar
Francisco Ximenez [who must not be confused with
the translator of the Popol Vuh] saw the need to furnish
a medical guide for the haciendas and towns of Mexico
that had neither physician nor pharmacist, and in 1615
at Mexico City published the first edition of Hemandez
work. He based it, however, upon the incomplete
summation by Recchi (Steele, 1964: 6). Recchi died
before completing his work and his manuscripts
came into possession of Federico Cesi, Prince of
Acquasparta (1585-1630), founding member of the
Accademia dei Lincei, in Roma. Cesi's intention was
to continue the publication of the work of Hernndez
with the help of other experts. Johannes Schreck (who
became a monk in 1628 and took the name of Giovanni
Terrenti or Terenzio), in charge of the botany, traveled

TABLE 2. Orchids in the 1651 edition of the Thesaurus (from
Jenny, 1993:4).

Page 38 Tlilxochitl Vanilla
Page 166 Coatzonte Coxochitl Stanhopea hernandezui
Page 349 Amazauhtli Oncidium (illustrated
without flowers, un-
doubtedly from the
group of Oncidium
luridum or Oncidium
Page 368 Chichiltic tepelauhxochitl Laeha cf. speciosa or
Page 433 Tzauxochitl Laelha or Encycha

to Madrid in 1616 on behalf of the Lincei, to study
Hemandez's manuscripts. In 1628 the Accademia
finally published the first part of the Thesaurus. The
same Accademia would publish, in 1651 and under the
guidance of Francesco Stelluti, an augmented version.
Before the work by Hemandez could be fully valued,
his manuscripts were destroyed by the great fire at El
Escorial in 1671.
Among the plants mentioned in the 1651 edition are
five species of Orchidaceae, all clearly illustrated and
described in Latin (Tab. 2).
In both editions (1628 and 1651) the illustrations
and descriptions coincide exactly. The Aztec names
are undoubtedly from Hernndez, while the Latin
equivalents are by Terenzio. Unfortunately, only two
species can be identified with certainty. The others
are illustrated without flowers, or with little detail
(Fig. 10, B-E). Alzate comments in 1791, referring
to the work of Hemandez, about another orchid called
cozticxochitl ("yellow flower"), that he also calls
istontle, istontli, iztamaxuchitl and cocotlacotl (Alzate
y Ramirez, 1791). The Botanical Register, under plate
#13, Govenia liliacea (La Llave & Lex.) Lindl., states
that "the first notice we have of the existence of this
species is from Hemandez who, in the Madrid edition
of his work, calls it by the many-syllabled name of
'Iztactepetzacuxochitl Icohueyo' (Sprunger, 1991:
123). This indicates that Hernndez work was still
known in Lindley's time.
Stanhopea hernandezii deserves a special mention
The romantic interpretation of many authors that the
Latin description that appears in the editions of 1628
and 1651 (Lyncis flore seu Lyncea = Lynx flower,

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also Lyncea) was a premonition of Hemandez that
it would be the Accademia dei Lincei that would
rescue his works from oblivion (such as Bateman
in his Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala ) is
opposed by the much more pragmatic opinion of Jenny
(1993: 5) who maintains that Hemandez could have
no knowledge of the Roman academy and that it was
Terenzio, member of the Lincei, who invented the
name. James Bateman (1811-1897) used the flower of
Stanhopea hernandezii to embellish the frontispiece of
his Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala (Fig. 10F)
and went to the extreme of assuring that Hernmndez
"ventured to dedicate it, as the loveliest plant of the
Mexican Flora, to the Lyncean Academicians of Rome,
by whom it was immediately adopted ..." (Bateman,
1837-43: 7). Bateman forgot that Hemandez had died
when Cesi was barely two years old.
We do not know if the loss of a great part of
Hemandez's work was due to neglect or to the zeal of
the Spanish Inquisition. But it is sad to record that a
work of such value shared the same fate of the herbal
of Martin de la Cruz, lost in the vaults of the Vatican,
or the monumental work of Sahagun, confiscated to
satisfy religious intolerance.

A new dark age

"Many died in the flames and it gave me so much
pleasure to see them burn that, poking the fire, I said:
Heretic dogs, minister I *..iil d, Holy Inquisition! "
Pedro Calderon de la Barca
The siege ofBreda, 1640

In the second half of the XVI century, the Spanish
Empire reached its maximum expansion. Phillip
II could proudly say that the sun did not set in his
dominions. The American continent excited the
curiosity of erudites and travelers. But the chronicles of
Bemal Diaz del Castillo, Francisco Lopez de G6mara,
Gonzalo Femandez de Oviedo and Fray Bemardino
de Sahagun gave way to a long century of silence and
darkness. As religious problems exacerbated in Europe,
the Spanish Inquisition unleashed its aggressiveness
against the liberty of thought. "... Charles I attempts
to avoid ideological corruption applying his Index
of forbidden books [Index Librorum Prohibitorum]
which his son Philip would extend prohibiting the
importation of foreign books and the travel of students

to the European universities" (Garcia de Cortazar, F.,
Gonzalez Vesga, J. M., 1994: 336). In 1571, the Holy
Office of the Inquisition was established in Mexico, to
investigate and punish religious crimes. Between 1571
and 1600, 600 persons were condemned by the tribunal
of the Inquisition in Mexico, 13 of them to die in the
flames. (Carmack et el., 1996: 158).
"The sword, the open grave to bury them alive, the
stake, awaited those who sold, bought or copied heretic
books; those who painted or sold defamatory images,
damaged or broke the images of the saints, those who
celebrated in their homes clandestine reunions or
permitted them; those who discussed in public or secretly
about the Holy Scripts" (Schneider, 2002: 193).
From a military standpoint, the defeat of the
Invincible Armada in 1588 was the first of a series of
disasters that continued during the Thirty Year War
(1618-1648) and marked the end of Spanish hegemony
in Europe. With the treaty of Utrecht (1713), Spain
said farewell to her last continental possessions. The
finances of the Spanish monarchy looked even worse:
the bankruptcy of 1557 repeated itself monotonously
in 1575, 1607, 1627, 1647, 1662 and 1666. The
peninsula suffers from depopulation (between 1575
and 1650 the Spanish population diminished by 20 per
cent) and economic recession. Instead of promoting
local production, the American gold finances luxury
purchases in foreign markets. While the rest of Europe
increased its production, Spain lied in financial
chaos. The universities served as recruiting centers
for the imperial bureaucracy. The crown encouraged
all disciplines related to administration while the
flames of the autos de fe of the Inquisition strangled
humanism and religious pressures suppressed scientific
"Medieval and modem at the same time, the
imperial society of the XVI and XVII centuries is a
society in transit... The spirit of exultation of the
kingdoms of Charles I and Philip II is replaced by
the prosaic reality of the smaller Hapsburgs... The
bitterness of military failures, the decline in the liberty
of thought, growing delinquency, hunger, bureaucratic
and religious hypertrophy... chained a community
which had been alive hundred years earlier" (Garcia de
Cortazar & Gonzalez Vesga, 1994: 270-71). We must
therefore not be surprised if, from the last third of the
XVI to the latter XVII century, the history of orchids

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

D 0w'AW4wn E

FIGURE 10. A -The questioner. Native drawing of a Spaniard of the XVI century who asked the Indians about their
traditions, plants and antiquities. It is generally assumed that it represents Francisco Hernandez. In Lozoya, 1984. B
-Coatzonte coxochitl (Stanhopea hemandezii). In Jenny, 1993: 1. C -Chichiltic tepetlauxochitl (Laelia speciosa).
In Jenny, 1993: 3. D -Tzacuxochitll (Prosthechea vitellina). In Hagsater et al., 2006: 40-41. E -Tzacutli (Bletia
jucunda). In Hagsater et al., 2006: 40-41. F -Enlarged detail from the frontispiece of the work of Bateman with the
illustration of Stanhopea hemandezii.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August2009. 0 Umversidad de CostaRlca, 2009.



.- -.......----------I -- -I- I ------
E F ,i A MM a

FIGURE 11.A The Stelis'ofTabernaemontanus. InNieder & Barthlott, 1992: 244. B Signature of Francisco Antonio
de Fuentes y Guzman, as flowery as his 'Recollection'. C Peristeria elata Hook. In Curtis's Botanical Magazine, plate
3116. D Carl von Linn6 (1707-1778). In Coe & Coe, 1996: 18. E Original site plan for the Royal Botanical Garden
in Madrid. In San Pio Aladr6n et al., 2005: 136. F -Original sketch for the main entrance gate to the Royal Botanical
Garden in Madrid. In San Pio Aladr6n et al., 2005: 137.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

in Central America shows a void that lasted almost 125
years, in what Carlos Fuentes called "the long night
of El Escorial". In Steele's words, "the seventeenth
century was sterile" (Steele, 1964: 11). \It should not
surprise us either that the only exceptions during this
period came from Central Europe. In 1588, the German
Jacob Theodor, better known as Tabernaemontanus
(1522-1590), publishes the Neuw vollkommentlich
Kreuterbuch ("New Complete Herbal").
In this work, without indication of origin, a plant
named Indianisch Mispel or Viscum Indicum is
illustrated, that according to Nieder & Barthlott is a
species of Stelis, although, in the opinion of Behar
and Pupulin (pers. comm., 2007) its 'lepanthiform'
sheaths could indicate that it is rather a species of the
genera Trichosalpinx or Lepanthopsis (Fig. 11A). All
three genera have a wide range of distribution and can
be found from Mexico and Central America through
the Caribbean and South America. It is therefore
clearly speculative to include this curious reference
of Tabernaemontanus in the history of the orchids
of Central America. The woodcut was probably
prepared from a herbarium specimen that could have
been collected in almost any region of the Americas.
Tabernaemontanus incurred in an understandable error,
including an epiphyte orchid in a genus (Viscum) that is
a parasite. The famous German philosopher Immanuel
Kant made the same mistake two hundred years later
when, writing about the cultivation of vanilla, he said
that you "... only have to tie it unto a tree, from which
it takes its juice" (Nieder & Barthlott, 1992: 243).
As the second exception, we already mentioned the
botanical description of vanilla by l'Ecluse in 1605.
It was ironically the same Charles de l'Ecluse who
published, in 1576, a flora of Spain (Rariorum aliquot
stirpium per Hispanias observatorum historic), just
as Spain debated about the necessity of expanding the
index of prohibited books of 1559 (the new index was
finally published in 1584) (Jacquet, 1994: 78).

The "English American" the journey through
Mexico and Central America of Thomas Gage
(1625-1637). Thomas Gage (1597?-1656) was one
of the most peculiar characters that ever visited our
region. Of Irish origin and bor into a traditional
Catholic family, Gage studied in France and Spain
in convents of the Jesuits by decision of his parents,

who wanted him to become together with his four
brothers- missionaries for the conversion of England
(one of the main objectives of the Spanish Jesuits).
While studying in Valladolid, Gage decided to leave
the Jesuits and joined the Dominicans, and it was as
part of a Dominican group on route to the Philippines
that he arrived in Veracruz in 1625, one the first non-
Spaniard to do so since the Spanish conquest of the
territory (despite of the presence of foreigners in the
Spanish colonies being strictly prohibited by a Royal
decree). From Mexico he went on to Guatemala and
entered the order's mission in the city. Gage lived
for twelve years in New Spain, for the most part in
Guatemala and among the indigenous population.
He came to know the customs, the language, and the
feelings of the Indians as very few before or after him.
He returned to England in 1637, traveling through
Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Cuba, and then
in 1642 publicly abandoned the Catholic Church for
a Puritanical form of Anglicanism. Gage later called
himself "the only Protestant that was ever known to
have traveled to those parts" (in the introduction to his
book). He embarked in 1654 as chaplain of Cromwell's
expedition to the Antilles and died finally in Jamaica
in 1656. Gage published in 1648 the account of this
travels through America in A New Survey of the West
Indies being A Journal of Three thousand and Three
hundred Miles within the main land of America. His
narrative was very popular in his time and one of the
reasons were the fantastic accounts of Gage (a mixture
of imagination and truth, full of exact details but also
of exaggerations, of descriptions of gold mines and
fabulous treasures). Gage's work was widely read and
discussed and translated to several other languages.
In his work, Gage mentions in several occasions the
use given to vanilla in relation to the preparation of
chocolate (see above "The history of Vanilla").

The renaissance of science. Slowly, in the last
decades of the XVI century, Spanish intellectuals
began to rebel against the disciplinary power of the
Church. The challenging 'philosophic letter' of Juan
de Cabriada, a militant manifest, openly in favor
of laboratory experiments, raised in 1687 waves of
enthusiasm and also scared rejections. With the change
of the century, methods of direct observation gained
more and more importance. Fernando VI paid special

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attention to the botanical gardens, founding the Royal
Botanical Garden in Madrid (1755), followed soon
by the botanical gardens of Valencia, Barcelona and
Zaragoza. Spain opens its doors to foreign scientists.
The botanist Loefling, pupil of Linne, brought his
Spanish colleagues up to date, as reflected in the
works of Barnades, Mutis or Gomez Ortega (Garcia
de Cortazar & Gonzalez Vesga, 1994: 405). In a last
attempt to maintain ideological repression, an edict by
the Inquisition in 1759 prohibited the reading of the
French Encyclopedia.
Two small works were published in Central
America, of more descriptive than scientific character,
in which we find the first descriptions of orchids after
the obscurantist interregnum. In 1690, the historian and
poet Francisco Antonio de Fuentes y Guzman (1643-
1700) wrote in Guatemala his Recordacion Florida,
discurso historical y demostraci6n natural, material,
military political del Reyno de Guatemala (=Flowery
recollection, historical discourse and natural, material,
military and political demonstration of the Kingdom of
Guatemala), published in Madrid in 1882. Fuentes y
Guzman described what is probably a species of the
genus Laelia: "The herb that, in the manner of a lily,
grows in the formation of its leaves and is called Zayte
by the candy makers and Cebollin (= little onion) by
peasants and shepherds, grows its roots like a potato or
a truffle, covered by a skin or membrane as subtle as
the skin of an onion, but tending to be green. Its roots
are thick as the wire of the blacksmiths. Its interior is
not covered by skins like the onion, but between fibers
like a cord it grows white dough of glutinous juiciness.
This dough is used by candy makers for drops and
cakes, because it gives them firmness. It is also used by
carpenters to weld and join the musical instruments and
to improve the firmness and softness of their voices"
(Fuentes y Guzman, 1932: 246-47). But perhaps
the most curious remark of Fuentes y Guzman is his
reference to the epiphytic habit of orchids. Not able to
understand how a plant grows on a tree, he calls them
"grafts". In the last paragraph of his work, Fuentes y
Guzman shows the fear still inspired by the Inquisition:
"All what is written in the first part of our history of the
Kingdom of Guatemala I submit with utmost catholic
humiliation to the correction of our mother, the Holy
Roman Catholic Church, as her obedient son" (Fuentes
y Guzman 1932: 418) (Fig. 11B).

Born in Andalusia in 1666, Friar Francisco Xim6nez
(1666-1729) arrived in Guatemala when he was 22
years of age and became famous for his translation
of the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Quich6, in
the first years of the XVIII century. The manuscript
which Father Francisco Xim6nez found in his parish at
Chichicastenango ranks highest among the documents
composed by the American Indians after they had
learned to write their own languages by means of
the Latin letters which the Spanish missionaries had
taught them. Its author was undoubtedly one of the first
students who learned from the friars the marvelous art
of phonetic writing. The Quich6 chronicler knew that
in olden times there was a book which contained the
traditions and accounts of his people, and, knowing
them perfectly, he had the happy inspiration of
recording them. The author of the Manuscript says that
he writes it because now the Popol Vuh, or the original
"Book of the People," as Xim6nez calls it, is no longer
to be seen. We have no facts by which to identify this
original book other than those which its unknown
author gives. Nevertheless, from the knowledge that
we have of the American Indians' system of writing
before the Conquest, it seems doubtful that the ancient
Quich6 book could have been a document of set form
and permanent literary composition. Rather one must
suppose that it might have been a book of paintings with
hieroglyphs which the priests interpreted to the people
in order to keep alive in them the knowledge of the
origin of their race and the mysteries of their religion.
The Manuscript of Chichicastenango has no title. It
begins directly with these words:
"This is the beginning of the old traditions of
this place called Quiche. Here we shall write and
we shall begin the old tales, the beginning and the
origin of all that was done in the town (.iili Quiche,
by the tribes of the Quiche nation."
Less known is Xim6nez's Historia Natural delReino
de Guatemala (= Natural History of the Kingdom of
Guatemala), a work written in 1722 but not published
until 1967 and considered to be the first medical botany
of Guatemala. Xim6nez marvels about the nature that
surrounds him: "If any flowers resemble our Divine
Maker with more property, I have no doubt that they are
the flowers of this America, for there are so many and
so admirable." A good observer, Xim6nez is one of the
first to describe the epiphytic character and sympodial

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

growth of orchids, without understanding the formation
of fruits and seed. In book XI of his work, About the
flowers, he dedicates a chapter to orchids under the
title: "Flowers of the trees": "No seed is recognized in
them from that they reproduce, but from one little onion
new others are bom and if one gives once a flower, it
will not give it again, and it leaves other onions at its
foot produced from itself and so those plants multiply"
(Xim6nez, 1722: 313). He tells us also how orchids are
only found in adult trees: "On the other hand, one sees
an oak growing, that had its bark clean, and suddenly
out of him comes some genus of those flowers, which
are without number. And this can only be seen when the
oak is old" (Xim6nez, 1722: 303).
Xim6nez continues describing several species
of orchids. He mentions the monjitas (= little nuns
-Lycaste spp.), the flower of Saint Martin (Laelia
superbiens Lindl.) and the flower of Sacrament
("They give it this name because it flowers at the time
of Lent and they put this flowers on the altars. It is very
fragrant and out of the onion rise long twigs, about
a vara11 long and it all fills with little flowers like a
real12" (Xim6nez, 1722: 314). Xim6nez also mentions
the miniatures: "Others give smaller flowers and still
others give some that are extremely small."
As it is a terrestrial, it does not surprise us that
Xim6nez fails to recognize Peristeria elata (Fig. 11C)
as an orchid, although it attracts his attention that they
have not been able to acclimate it to Guatemala: "In
the fields near the city of Panama grows a herb whose
flower is a well formed white dove, that is the reason
that they call this the flower of the Holy Spirit, and it is
so unique to that land, that it has not been possible to
take it to another, notwithstanding all efforts that have
been made...". Xim6nez mentions a total of more than
12 species, ending with a reference to the great variety
of orchids existing in the region and to the impossibility
of describing them all: "There are [so] many others
that grow on onions that I do not remember any more"
(Xim6nez, 1722: 304).
Little more can be told about orchids in Central
America during the XVII and the first half of the
XVIII centuries. While Sloane and Plumier explored
the Antilles and England and France increased their
knowledge about the floras of their colonies, Spanish
" vara= unit of length, about 2.8 ft.
12 real = a silver coin.

science continued in a profound kcli..o Botanical
interest slowly extended from the British colonies to
Tierra Firme. "A few botanical specimens may have
been garnered by the British buccaneer William Dampier
(1652-1715).... [who] stopped at Cocos Island and Cabo
Blanco [Costa Rica] in June and July (respectively) of
1684 aboard the pirated ship Batchelor Delight..."
(Hammel et al., 2004: 2). During his voyages to the
Caribbean and Central America, the Scott William
Houston spent four years (1729-1733) in Cuba,
Veracruz, Campeche and Jamaica, collecting specimens
and seeds (Steele, A. R., 1964: 15). There are however
no orchids among his collections. In the previous chapter
(The history ofvanilla) we already commented about the
collections of R. Miller in Campeche in 1739. Shortly
afterwards, the Swede Carl von Linn6 (1707-1778)
set the foundation for modem botanical nomenclature.
"According to present rules, the terminology of orchids
starts on May 1, 1753... (Jacquet, 1994: 96). With
Linn6, "... botanical science came to life, if not yet to
maturity" (Steele, 1964: 9) (Fig. 11D).


"Hispaniae Florae nullae nobis innoterunt,
adeoque plantae istae rarissimae, in locis
Hispaniae fertilissimis, minus detectae sunt.
Dolendus est, quod in locis Europa cultioribus,
tanta existat nostro tempore barbaries botanices. "
(= Nothing comes to us from the Hispanic
Flora, because these rare plants that live in the
fertile regions of Spain are barely taken into
consideration. It is painful to see that so much
botanical barbarity exists in such enlightened
places ofEurope)
Carl von Linne, Bibliotheca botanica, 1751

The Age of Reason. Fernando VI, who ascended to
the throne in 1746, proved that Spanish botany only
needed the support of the crown in order to grow. After
a petition of Secretary of State Jose de Carvajal, Linne
sent to Spain one of his favorite pupils, Pehr Lofling
(1729-1756). "L6fling cast off to bring light to Darkest
Spain in May, 1751" (Steele, 1964: 31). As proof that
the XVIII century desire for "useful knowledge" had

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


penetrated Spanish consciousness, the government
decided to send Lofling, together with other experts,
on an expedition that should explore Venezuela. This
expedition bore little results, due to the premature
death of Lofling in the region of the Orinoco river, but
above all because the Spanish government refused to
lend or even show Linne the material collected by his
pupil and especially the manuscripts that he compiled
during his brief stay in America. To this day, nobody
knows what happened to L0fling's herbarium, one of
the first collections made in America.
The advantages that Enlightenment saw in utilitarian
science were expressed by Linn6: "Various nations
consider it a raison d'etat to hide their advantages,
especially in the distant colonies. But Sefior Carvajal
was too great a statesman to let himself be deceived
by these motives. He knew that the rich resources of
nature are inexhaustible and that, using them with the
necessary knowledge, one had no need to fear their lack.
He saw how the French and English, in many varied
ways, had learned to exploit their colonies after having
learned to know their territories and products in a better
manner" (Ryd6n, 1957: 204-205. The quote is from the
prologue of Linne in his Iter Hispanicum, 1758).
Though its beginnings were tortuous and slow,
Spanish botany entered an era of excited ferment in the
last half of the eighteenth century (Steele, 1964: 46).
The Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid was founded
in 1755. On October 17, 1755, Femando VI signed a
royal order: "Wishing the King the furtherance of the
Arts and Sciences, and especially those whose progress
promise great advantages to the health of his subjects,
has he come to grant to his Royal Protomedicate the
use of his garden at Migascalientes with the purpose
of forming there a Royal Garden and improving in
these Kingdoms the important study of Botany" (Fig.
11, E-F). Jose Quer (1695-1764) was named as its
first professor of Botany. He would publish, between
1762 and 1764, the first Spanish flora, in four volumes,
which was left unfinished at the time of his death (Quer,
J., 1762, Flora Espahola o Historia de las plants que
se crian en Espaia, Madrid) (De San Pio Aladren et
al., 2005: 23).
Moved by the necessity of reviving the Spanish
economy and reducing unemployment, the Count

of Campomanes, in his famous Discourse on the
furtherance of popular industry (1774), mentioned the
importance of studying natural history. Thus was the
idea born to send expeditions to the principal regions
of the empire. In 1777 the expedition of Ruiz and
Pav6n departed for the Viceroyalty of Peru, followed
in 1787, 1789 y 1799 by those of Sess6 and Mocifio to
New Spain, Malaspina to the Pacific and Mutis to New
Granada. All this research, made during twenty years
in the most fertile regions of the new continent, has not
only enriched the domain of science with more than four
thousand new species of plants; it has also contributed
greatly to spread the taste for natural history among the
inhabitants of the country (Steele, 1964: vii, who cites
Alexander von Humboldt, in his Essai politique sur le
royaume de la Nouvelle-Espagne (1811).
Under the influence of the ideas of Enlightenment
and the political events that shook France and the
English colonies inNorthAmerica, Spain experimented
in the last third of the XVIII century a cultural and
scientific renaissance that, ironically, would be a
principal cause for the loss, few years later, of its
American empire. King Charles IV, great promoter
of the botanical exploration of America, and his wife
Maria Luisa, where honored by Ruiz & Pav6n in the
naming of the genus Carludovica, from the family of
the Cyclanthaceae (From the Latin Carolus = Charles,
and Ludovica = Luisa, Louise)13.

The expedition of Alessandro Malaspina to the
Pacific (1789-1794). On July 30, 1789, after many
months of careful planning, two small corvettes
left the port of Cadiz. Commanding some 200 men,
Alessandro Malaspina (1754-1810), one of the most
brilliant officers of the Spanish Navy, went ahead with
the most ambitious project of Spanish enlightenment:
the scientific exploration of the American coasts and of
the greater part of the islands of the eastern Pacific (Fig.
12). Malaspina had been born in Italy but was educated
in the Company of Naval Guards in Cadiz, which
was at that time the most prestigious naval school in
Europe. He took part in the Spanish-English wars and
in 1782 began a brilliant career in the Spanish Armada.
Between 1786 and 1788, commanding the frigate
Astrea, he circumnavigated the globe by order of the

13 The type species for Carludovica is Carludovica palmata Ruiz & Pav6n, the well known "paja toquilla" from which the famous
'Panama' hats are made.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

FIGURE 12. Alessandro Malaspina (1754-1810). Navy Museum, Madrid.

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- a.~


*- I

25 /%..
'' ^.JfeiJ-ri- A3-

FIGURE 13. A The corvettes 'Descubierta' and 'Atrevida'. Navy Museum of Madrid. B -El Viejo volcano from the
port of Realejo. Drawing by Jose Cardero (fragment). Museo de America, Madrid. C -Thaddeus Haenke (1761-1817).
Portrait by V. Grtiner, in Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid, 1989: 83. D Epidendrum iridifolium. Collection and drawing
by Haenke. In Ibafez Montoya, 1990: 69. E -Louis Nee (ca. 1734-1807). Sketch by Felipe Bauza, in Real Jardin
Botanico de Madrid, 1989: 59. F The naturalists on the island of Naos, Panama. Drawing by Jose Cardero (fragment).
In Malaspina, A., 1990: 211.

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I ', : a'


7-7- -- 4. 1
Ufl u*^--' -e- W' ,.- ,.

OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

Royal Company of the Philippines. In a letter from
September 1788 to the Naval Ministry, together with
his colleague Jose Bustamante y Guerra, he explained
the ideas that inspired him to his expedition: "to
increase the knowledge about natural sciences (biology,
botany, zoology and geology), to undertake astronomic
observations and to 'construct hydrographical charts
for the most remote regions of America' (Becquer
Casaballe, 2003: 2). The government approved his
proposal as a "scientific and political voyage around
the world" and gave the order for the construction of
two corvettes, that were baptized "Santa Justa" and
"Santa Rufina", names which Malaspina immediately
changed to "Descubierta" and "Atrevida", in honor of
the ships "Discovery" and "Resolution" of the English
explorer James Cook (although the second name is not
the most fortunate of translations) (Fig. 13A).
The expedition did not have the intention of
discovering new territories, but of exploring in depth
those already known. Malaspina, a man of vast
culture, was therefore very meticulous in the selection
of the scientists who were to accompany him. The
most prominent among the botanists chosen for the
expedition, were Pineda, Haenke and Nee. Malaspina
professed great admiration for these three men and their
scientific qualities. In addition to this, Malaspina had
sought and received the advice of the most prominent
European men of science of his time, among them
Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Horticultural
Society (Soler Pascual, 1999: 29). The artists of the
expedition were Jose Cardero, Felipe Bauza, Jose Guio
and Francisco Lindo.
Antonio Pineda was bor in Guatemala in 1751
and received his education in Spain under the
guidance of Casimiro Gomez Ortega, soon standing
out as a naturalist and botanist. He held the position
of Infantry Lieutenant of the Spanish Royal Guards
when Malaspina, in 1788, asked for his designation
as director of the natural history research of the
expedition. After being appointed in the month of
December, Pineda proposed as his assistants for
Botany and Mineralogy Louis Nee, employee of
the garden of the Royal Boutique, and the chemist

Florian Coetanfeu. While the gardener, stimulated by
his precarious position, accepted the offer without
thinking it over, and tried to obtain substantial
benefits by tergiversing his curriculum, the chemist
used the subterfuge of his family to resign from the
expedition. Finally, Tadeo Haenke was admitted as
the third expeditionary naturalist" (Puig Samper et al.,
2001: 50). In Central America, Pineda took part of
the exploration of Panama and somewhat later in the
ascend to the El Viejo volcano, in Nicaragua, together
with Haenke (Fig. 13B). While exploring the island of
Luzon (Philippines) Pineda fell sick and died in June
of 1792.
Thaddeus Peregrinus Xaverius Haenke was bor in
Bohemia in 1761. He studied natural sciences in the
universities of Vienna and Prague. In 1786 Haenke
was selected as a botanist to participate in the first
multidisciplinary expedition to the Giant Mountains
(KrkonoSe, Riesengebirge) organized by the Royal
Czech Society. The results of that expedition were
published in 1788. This was the most important work
of Haenke from Bohemia, and he was awarded for it
a silver medal by the Royal Czech Scientific Society.
Haenke always wanted to travel to distant places and
study the botany of new, botanically uncharted areas.
He was interested in participating in Captain Billings'
expedition sponsored by the Russian Catherine II, but
Billings ultimately did not take any scientists with
him14. In 1789 Haenke was offered the position of a
botanist in the Malaspina expedition and he eagerly
accepted the offer. The Austrian Emperor Joseph II
learned about Haenke, now one of the best botanists
in all of Austria, and did not want to allow Haenke to
leave the country. Emperor Joseph II allowed Haenke
to leave only after the intervention by Professor
Jacquin, but Haenke had to agree that he would return
back to Austria after the expedition. By misfortune,
Haenke arrived in Cadiz one day after the corvettes
had sailed. This forced him to take another vessel to
Buenos Aires, crossing the Andes all the way to Chile
and finally joining the group in Valparaiso. "But this
contrariety served the purpose of forcing Haenke [...]
to cross the South American all the way to Santiago

14 Captain Joseph Billings, an English navigator, had earlier accompanied Captain James Cook on his third voyage to the Pacific,
and subsequently entered the Russian navy, initially as a lieutenant. In 1785, Empress Catherine II of Russia, acting for her
government, commissioned Billings to command an expedition to search for the Northeast Passage, forming the "Northeastern
Secret Geographical and Astronomical Expedition" (1785-94).

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de Chile and collecting on the way some 250 species
of plants" (Puig Samper et al. 2001: 18) (Fig. 13,
C-D). Haenke's botanical findings were published
by Presl in 1827 with the title Reliquiae Haenkeanae
seu Descriptiones et Icones Plantarum quas in
America Meridionali et Boreali, in Insulis Phillipinis
et Marianis Collegit. In 1793, when the expedition
was preparing for the return voyage to Spain, he stayed
in El Callao (Peru), wanting to continue his botanical
explorations. Some years later he established himself
in Bolivia, from where he continued sending the results
of his collections. He died in the city of Cochabamba
in 1816 (Slavik & Ceska, 2002).
Louis Nee (ca. 1734-1807), French by birth, was
working in Madrid in the garden of the Royal Pharmacy
when Pineda proposed him as a member of the scientific
group. He was accepted and, during the five years of the
expedition, collected an important herbarium with over
10,000 specimens (Fig. 13E). Before leaving Madrid for
Cadiz, where the expedition was to embark, Nee insisted
in receiving a certain amount of money in advance,
to cover his travel expenses and for the "subsistence
of his family, which was left in charge of his wife,
Dofia Francisca Luz". His request was finally granted
and, with all financial matters settled, Nee writes: "the
day of the expedition June 5, I left Madrid for Cadiz
in the company of Don Antonio Pineda, Don Vicente
Tofiflo and Don Felipe Bauza. I presented myself to
the Commander, don Alejandro Malaspina and to don
Jose Bustamante, second Commander of the expedition,
who greeted me with great kindness. Our departure
took place on July 30, at ten o'clock in the morning"
(Mufioz Garmendia, & Sanz Alvarez, 1990:31). In the
course of the expedition, Nee dedicated himself mainly
to the collection of plants, although he also collected
other objects, such as shells, minerals and ethnographic
materials. These collections were made mostly alone, or
in the company ofAntonio Pineda, who was the member
of the expedition with whom he worked together more
often. The impression arises that the two botanists, Nee
and Haenke, did not intend to form a team nor to sum
efforts for a future joint publication. Each one collected
on his own and made the descriptions separately,
without taking part, apparently, in any attempt of
cooperation. The herbaria were sent separately to Cadiz
and the distrust went so far that Nee, on March 22, 1979,
writes to Juan de Langara: 'since the valuable collection

has already been made, of which mister Haencke, the
renowned German botanist and fellow traveler has
duplicates, be it published in Spain as soon as possible
so that the foreigners cannot anticipate us in prejudice
of the national honor and that of the undersigned, who
has worked so hard to be the first author and discoverer'
(Mufioz Garmendia, & Sanz Alvarez, 1990:37). Nee
was the only of the three botanists to return to Europe.
Of importance for Mesoamerica are his collections,
together with Pineda and Haenke, in Panama, Nicaragua
and Mexico.
During the period of interest for this study,
Malaspina's corvettes sailed from El Callao in Peru
to Guayaquil in Ecuador, from where they departed
to Panama in October of 1790. The surroundings of
the city of Panama and the island of Taboga where
explored in December 1790 (Fig. 13F). From the
journal of Luis Nee we have the following dates:

October, 28:
Weighing anchor in the port of Guayaquil towards
November, 16:
Arrival at Peric6 Island, close to Panama.
November, 17/December, 10:
Suroundings of Panama, towards Punta Mala,
Anc6n Hill, the coast, convent of the Nuns of
the Concepcion, towards San Lazaro, Coconut
Orchard, Peric6 Island and others surrounding the
harbor, coastline towards Arenal Grande.
Excursion of 7 leagues towards Portobelo, on the
Atlantic coast.. Pineda follows the Cruces River.
December, 10:
Weighing anchor from Panama.
December, 11 / 14:
Anchoring at Taboga Island. Nee and Haenke
collect on Taboga Island
December, 15:
Setting sail from Taboga Island.

It was then when Malaspina first studied the possibility
of building a canal to communicate both oceans. In the
first months of 1791, the corvettes sailed towards Costa
Rica and separated. While the Atrevida, after visiting
the island of Cocos, set a straight course to Acapulco,
the Descubierta navigated along the Central American
coast, landing in El Realejo (Nicaragua) and Sonsonate
(El Salvador), arriving in Acapulco on March 25.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

It is again Luis Nee who gives us the dates in his
January 17/30:
Sojourn of the corvette "Descubierta" in the
harbor of Realejo (Nicaragua). Pineda and Haenke
explore the surroundings of Realejo and go to the
El Viejo volcano from January 20 to 22; on the 23,
Pineda and Malaspina went to the Card6n Island,
collecting mainly shells; Cayetano Valdes traveled
to Leon and to the Telica volcano, collecting
materials for the Natural History collection. On
January 30, the "Descubierta" set sail for Acapulco
(Mufioz Garmendia, & Sanz Alvarez, 1990:338).
Presl, in his Reliquiae Haenkeanae, gives us the
following description of the journey of the expedition
along the Central American coast:
December both ships departed from the gulf and the
port of Guayaquil, directing their course toward the
North, and arrived to the gulf and port of Panama. The
fascicle of the Panamanian plants demonstrates the
diligence of our people in this place of the world. The
ships conduced by Malaspina came to Acapulco in New
Spain on February 2nd, 1791, after having touched the
port and city of Guatemala] (Presl, 1827).
After exploring the interior of Mexico and the
northwest coast of the continent all the way to Alaska,
the expedition continued in the first months of 1792
to the Marianne and Philippine islands. In 1793 the
group was again in Peru and returned finally to Cadiz
in September of 1794. It is noteworthy that, while
the expeditions of Malaspina and Sess6 and Mocifio
coincided during the year of 1791 along the Mexican
Pacific coast, history does not record any encounter
between either groups (Novo y Colson, 1885).
Haenke's herbarium, with over 15,000 specimens,
was dispersed among numerous European herbaria.
In 1827, Carl Boriwog Presl compiled an important
part which was conserved in Prague and Vienna

and published his Reliquiae Haenkeanae, where he
enumerated 27 species of orchids. In the second volume
we find the only illustration of an orchid in our area
of study, that Haenke named Dendrobium mexicanum
and Christenson (1991) identified later as Eulophia
alta (L.) Fawc. & Rendle (Fig. 14A). Among Haenke's
collections, Presl described at least four new species
of orchids, which are widely distributed in our region:
Oncidium obovatum Presl [= Barkeria obovata (Presl)
Chistenson], Elleanthus linifolius Presl, Elleanthus
lancifolius Presl and Vanilla odorata Presl.
The herbarium of Nee stayed during long years
in Madrid, in unopened boxes, without anybody
bothering to study it. It came to the botanical garden
of Madrid where, fortunately, it could not be reached
by Pav6n, who had an offer from Webb to purchase
it. Things remained unchanged until recently, in 1980,
the 'Ancient General Herbarium', which had survived
more or less intact, was diluted in the 'General
Herbarium' (that now holds over 466,000 sheets),
thanks to an unfortunate and hasty decision of the
'conservators' (Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid, 1989:
70). Thanks to this, the study of the original specimens
collected by Nee has become an almost impossible
task. However, 370 sheets of botanical illustrations
have survived, which are now one of our main sources
of information about the collections by the botanists
of Malaspina's expedition. Among them we find
four species of Orchidaceae. One is an illustration of
Caularthron bilamellatum (Rchb. f.) R. E. Schult.,
collected in Guayaquil (Ecuador). The other three are
Catasetum sp., from the island of Taboga (Panama),
Ionopsis utricularioides (Sw) Lindl. from the port
of San Blas (state of Nayarit, Mexico) and Laelia sp.
from the mines of Real del Monte (state of Hidalgo,
Mexico). By far, the most interesting for us is the
illustration by Jose Guio, draftsman of the expedition,
of a species of Catasetum in the island of Taboga
(Panama) during the last days of December 1790 and
given by Nee the number 19. It is probably the first
botanical illustration of a Central American species
of Orchidaceae, with the exceptions of those by De la
Cruz, Sahagun, Hernandez and Tabemaemontanus, in
the XVI century (Fig. 14B). The other two illustrations
are from species that where not collected within our
area of study. However, lonopsis utricularioides (Fig.
14C) is a common species in all Mesoamerica and

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


Laelia sp. (Fig. 14D) was collected not far from the
limits of modem Central America.
Sharing the fortune of the other Spanish botanical
expeditions, Malaspina never saw the publication of
the botanical results of his voyage. His proposal to
the king for a political reorganization of the empire
brought him charges of treason to the state. Imprisoned
in Galicia from 1796 to 1802, Malaspina was liberated
thanks to mediation by Napoleon but had to leave
Spain and return to his native Italy, where he died in
1810. Malaspina's was doubtless the best organized
of all Spanish scientific expeditions to America. An
important factor for this was the fact that it was the only
one which was structured along strict military lines.

The Royal Botanic Expedition of Sess6 and Mocifio
to New Spain (1787-1803). After the Jesuits were
expelled from Spain in 1767, an original copy in five
volumes of the manuscripts of Francisco Hemandez
was found in the library of the Imperial College of
Madrid. Casimiro Gomez Ortega, director of the Royal
Botanical Garden, decided to publish the manuscripts,
but found himself with two problems: the work by
Hemandez was no longer up to date and the original
drawings were missing. In the meantime, in January
1785, the Spanish physician Martin de Sess6 y Lacasta
(1751-1808), who served in Cuba in the squadron of
the Marquis del Socorro, proposed to Gomez Ortega
the idea of establishing a botanical garden and a
chair of Botany in the Mexican capital (Fig. 15A).
As he wrote: "Considering you one of the lovers of
the flora, I dare to interrupt your occupations with
the following discourse aimed at making them shine
and give fruit in this part of the New World" (Letter
from Sess6 to Gomez Ortega, January 30, 1785). The
idea had already been expressed by Lofling, who in
a letter to Linne dated June 24, 1753, writes: "I gave
him [the Marquis of Grimaldi] to think that it would
be of advantage to go to Mexico, where Hemandez
had been, but ob fata seculi (= for destiny's fate) he
left his observations obscure and imprecise" (Mufioz
Garmendia, & Sanz Alvarez, 1990:25).
The idea to complete the publication of the work
of Hemandez with documents and drawings that could
eventually be found in Mexico, and the timely proposal
of Sess6, where the motives for the promulgation by
King Charles III of the Royal Order of October 27,

1786. The establishment of the Botanical Garden in
New Spain, the Chair of Botany (the first in America)
and the formation of an expedition that should "form
the drawings, collect the natural productions and
complete the writings of Francisco Hemindez" was
ordered (Maldonado Polo, 1996: 25). The expedition
was therefore organized as an extension of the
enterprise that had started two centuries earlier. It
was composed initially by Martin de Sess6, Vicente
Cervantes, Jose Longinos Martinez, Juan del Castillo
and Jaime Senseve.
The Garden and the Chair of Botany were
inaugurated in May, 1788 (Fig. 15B). A short time
later, during the second course of botany (1789), a
brilliant student stood out who was destined to have
a prominent role in the expedition at the side of
Sess6: the Creole Jose Mariano Mociflo (1757-1820)
(Fig. 15C). In 1787 Sess6 had already started his field
activities, which extended initially until 1794. In
different excursions, joined by Mociflo after 1790, the
expeditionaries explored the central regions of Mexico,
including the Pacific Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.
Other itineraries brought members of the expedition to
the north of Mexico, California and the coast of the
Canadian Pacific. Of particular interest to our study is
the excursion of Mocifio to the Gulf coast (1793-1794)
where he seems to have explored the region to the
south of Veracruz and adjacent Tabasco. "Southeastem
Mexico, as far as the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, belongs
also to biological Central America" (Williams, 1956:1)
(Fig. 15, D-F; Tab. 3). In the Tomer collection of the
Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation we find
beautiful orchid illustrations, drawn by the draftsmen
of the expedition, Juan de Dios Vicente de la Cerda y
Atanasio Echeverria y Godoy (Fig. 16-18; 19B-).
The term given to the expedition expired in October,
1794. Since the territories of the southern regions of
the Vicekingdom -the border of Guatemala- had not
yet been explored, Sess6 asked for an extension, which
was approved by Royal Order of September 15, 1794.
It was resolved that the expedition should explore,
for a period of two years, the kingdom of Guatemala
and simultaneously the Windward islands. Ever since
the expedition of Malaspina had touched Central
American lands, clear consciousness existed that these
territories could not be left out by the members of the
expedition to New Spain.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Unversidad de CostaRica, 2009.

OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

\1 ,'

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FIGURE 14. A Dendrobium mexicanum. In Presl, C., 1827, (2): 102. B -Catasetum sp. Illustration by Jose Guio in Real
Jardin Botanico de Madrid, 1989: plate 137. C lonopsis utricularioides (Sw.) Lindl. Illustration by Jose Guio in Real
Jardin Botanico de Madrid, 1989: plate 1260. D Laelia sp. Illustration by Francisco Lindo in Real Jardin Botanico de
Madrid, 1989: plate 198.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Unversidad de CostaRlca, 2009.

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Polo, 1996: 30. C -Jose Mariano Mocifo (1757-1820). Portrait courtesy of Esthela Sandoval. D -Routes of Sess6
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San Pio Aladr6n, 2000: 59. F -Labels from the Mocifo herbarium. In San Pio Aladr6n, 2000: 65.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Unversidad de CostaRica, 2009.


~~ 'I. ~it*r

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

FIGURE 16. Stanhopea oculata (Lodd.) Lindl. No. 0164 of the illustrations of the expedition of Sess6 and Mocifo in the
Torner Collection. Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation.

LANKESTERIANA9(- 2), August 2009. 0 Unversidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


FIGURE 17. Vanilla pompona Schiede. No. 0483 of the illustrations of the expedition of Sess6 and Mocifio in the Torner
Collection. Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de CostaRica, 2009.

OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America


f ,''.', "if'-C~~~~~~f ff~ -"* ^ **^(- i -vf


/- r 4

FIGURE 18. Bletia roezlii Rchb. f. N 0091 of the illustrations of the expedition of Sess6 and Mocifo in the Torner Collection.
Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation.

LANKESTERIANA9(- 2), August 2009. 0 Unlversidad de Costa Rca, 2009.

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FIGURE 19. A Route of Mocifio and De la Cerda through Central America. In Maldonado Polo, 1996: 74. B Prosthechea
baculus (Rchb. f.) W. E. Higgins. No. 1933 of the illustrations of the expedition of Sess6 and Mocifio in the Torer
Collection. Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. C -Isochilus linearis (Jacq.) R. Br. N 0829, id.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Unversidad de CostaRica, 2009.




OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

TABLE 3. Orchids collected by Mocifio during the excursion of 1793-94 (From McVaugh, 2000: 408-424). Not included are
the unidentified species.

Name used by Sess6 and Mocino Botanical name that is valid today Locality of collection

Epidendrum acuminatum
Epidendrum capitatum
Epidendrum comutum
Epidendrum ellipticum
Epidendrum emarginatum
Epidendrum guttatum
Epidendrum lamellatum
Epidendrum linear
Epidendrum nutans
Epidendrum paniculatum
Epidendrum pulchellum
Epidendrum pusillum
Epidendrum tigrinum
Epidendrum vanilla
Orchis pauciflora

Prosthechea baculus (Rchb. f.) W. E. Higgins
Elleanthus cynarocephalus (Rchb. f.) Rchb. f.
Stanhopea oculata (Lodd.) Lindl.
Cranichis sylvatica A. Rich. & Gal.
Pleurothallis tubata (?) (Lodd.) Steud.
Oncidium lankesteri Ames
Corallorrhiza macrantha Schltr.
Isochilus linearis (Jacq.) R. Br.
Nidema boothii (Lindl.) Schltr.
Epidendrum diffusum Sw.
Encycliapterocarpa (Lindl.) Dressler
Erycinapusilla (L.) N. H. Williams & M. W. Chase
Epidendrum raniferum Lindl.
Vanilla pompona Schiede
C..,,.,,, ., i ,,l..,, Poepp. & Endl.

San Andres Tuxtla
Volcan de San Martin, Tuxtla
Orizaba, Veracruz
San Andres, Tuxtla
Cordoba, Veracruz
Orizaba, Veracruz
San Andres, Tuxtla
Cordoba, Veracruz
Cordoba, Veracruz
San Andres, Tuxtla
Papantla, Veracruz
Cordoba, Veracruz
Cordoba, Veracruz

The expedition split in two and in May, 1795, a first
group at the command of Sesse sailed from Veracruz
to explore the islands of Cuba, Santo Domingo and
Puerto Rico. The second group, lead by Mociflo,
departed in June of the same year from Mexico on a
southern route. Another of the scientists, Jose Longinos
Martinez, started a few days before and arrived in
Guatemala before Mocifio, who encountered multiple
delays during his trip. Mociflo and De la Cerda finally
arrived in Guatemala in October, 1796. In the first days
of the year 1797, Mociflo and De la Cerda initiated in
Guatemala a long journey, exploring during the next
two years the Pacific Coast belt of Central America.
Their route would take them through El Salvador,
Honduras and Nicaragua, reaching finally Cartago, in
Costa Rica. The route from the capital of Guatemala
to Nicaragua was called the "passage of Nicaragua"
and passed through Cartago, from where it continued
to Panama. Mocifio and De la Cerda kept always,
except for small variations, to this route by way of
Ahuachapan, Sonsonate, San Salvador, Cojutepeque,
San Vicente, Zacatecoluca, San Miguel and
Conchalagua, all towns in the territory of El Salvador.
Then, bordering the Gulf of Fonseca, they traveled

through Choluteca in Honduras until they arrived in
Nicaragua. Following the same route along the coast,
they were in El Viejo, Realejo, Chinandega, Leon,
Nagarote, Mateare and Managua. From this last city
they directed themselves to the Lake of Nicaragua,
bordering it along its southwestern margin and
crossing to the island of Ometepe, passing later
through Masaya and Granada, and arriving finally
in the town of Nicaragua (afterwards named Rivas)
(Taracena, 1983) (Fig. 19, A). Vegetal specimens from
the Gulf of Nicoya and Cartago have been identified,
allowing the assumption that the expedition, or part
of it, continued its route further to the south. The
return journey followed the same route, and the
expeditionaries arrived back in Guatemala at the end
of March, 1798, after having survived the earthquake
of San Salvador, in February of the same year.
The most important botanical result of the
expedition to Central America is the manuscript
of the Flora de Guatemala, that Mocifio intended
to publish later together with the Flora de Mexico.
Although the results may seem meager, the relatively
low number of species described in the manuscript (a
total of 526) may obey to the fact that the botanists, in

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August2009. 0 Umversidad de Costa Rwa, 2009.


TABLE 4. Orchids included in the Flora of Guatemala of Mocifo.

Name used by Mocifo (genus)



Name used by Mocino (species)

"Serapias bulbis ovatis, compressis,
foliis ensiformibus, nectarii labio
trifido; lacinia intermedia rugosa
glandulosa "

Botanical name valid today

Pleurothallis tubata (?) (Lodd.) Steud.
Prosthechea baculus (Rchb. f) W. E. Higgins
Erycinapusilla (L.) N. H. Williams & M. W. Chase

Cranichis sylvatica A. Rich. & Gal.
Isochilus linearis (Jacq.) R. Br.

this case Mociflo, only treated new species that they
found on their way, not mentioning those previously
found during the earlier excursions. "Of strong
influence must have been also the fact that the Central
American territories where less explored from the
botanical standpoint than other regions of New Spain,
at least less well known to the European explorers in
the XVIII and the preceding centuries, that impeded
their [the plants'] identification and knowledge. Thus,
many plants where stored and not included in the list"
(Maldonado Polo, 1996: 121-122).
McVaugh warns: "Botanists of the future,
if working with the collections of Sess6 and
Mociflo... will do well to remember, however, that
any individual specimens of unknown origin may
have been collected in Guatemala, in El Salvador,
in Nicaragua or even in Costa Rica" (McVaugh,
1977: 49). No trace is left from the drawings made
for the Flora de Guatemala, most of them having
been destroyed in the earthquake of San Salvador
of 1798. Notwithstanding, this work can however
be considered as the first modem flora of Central
America. The number of orchids described in this
flora is pitifully small, and no locality of collection is
indicated for any of them. A total of two genera and
10 species are described (Tab. 4; Fig. 19, B-C).
The authorized term for the extension of the
expedition expired and it was not until May, 1798,
that Sess6 returned to the Mexican capital. Mociflo

did the same in February, 1799. New hindrances,
particularly the war with England, delayed the return
of the expeditionaries to Spain, that finally took place
in 1803.
The last months of the expedition in Mexico
coincided with the arrival ofAlexander von Humboldt
in the capital of New Spain, in April, 1803. Although
the name of von Humboldt is not directly relevant to
us (his collections lie all outside of our area of study),
it is interesting to note that both Mociflo and Cervantes
met the great German naturalist, before the departure
of Mociflo to Cadiz, in June of that year. After their
encounter Humboldt wrote: "MM. Cervantes, Sess6
et Mocino nous front connoitre sous peu la flore de
ce pays; mais sur un terrain aussi immense la nature
est pour ainsi dire in6puisable, et nous poss6dons sans
doute plusieurs v6egtaux mexicains qui ont 6chapp6 a
la sagacity de ces botanistes" (= Messrs. Cervantes,
Sesse and Mociho made known to us in a short time
the flora of that country; but in such an immense
territory nature is -we could say- inexhaustible, and
we possess without doubt several Mexican vegetables
which have escaped the sagacity of these botanists)
(Humboldt & Bonpland 1808: iii).
The material collected by the expedition arrived
in Spain during days of great political convulsion.
Mociflo was made responsible for publishing the
results of the expeditions to Mexico, Guatemala,
California and the Windward Islands. To do so he

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

was given the help of the Mexican Pablo La Llave
(1773-1833) (Gonzalez Bueno & Rodriguez Nozal,
R., 2006: 173) But the wartime situation in which
Spain found itself did not favor the project. The main
part of the collections (particularly the herbarium)
came to the "Botanical Office""15 controlled by
Pav6n, especially after the forced exile of Mociflo
to France in 1813, accused of collaborating with the
French occupation forces. The attempts by Sesse
and Mocifio to publish a Mexican flora never bore
fruit (Fig. 20A). Between herbarium specimens and
botanical drawings made during the expedition, we
are left with a total of 136 species of Orchidaceae.
In many cases the species have not been identified.
In others there is no information about the locality of
collection, so that we can not be sure if they belong
to our area of study.
In spite of the circumstances that prevented the
publication of the scientific results, there is no doubt
that the Royal Botanical Expedition to New Spain is
a milestone in the history of our orchids.

The dispersal of the botanical collections

\,, i.., %. always pursue men of genius"
Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

Pav6n, starting in 1814, and in charge of the
Botanical Office, began to handle the collections as if
they were his own, selling specimens of the herbarium
of the expedition to New Spain and duplicates of that
of the flora of Peru and Chile, so squandering the
funds which were under his care. In the meantime, in
England, the opulent botanist Aylmer Bourke Lambert
(1761-1842) (Fig. 20B) was named in 1798 as one of
the first members of the Linnean Society. A passionate
collector, Lambert amassed, through tenacity and
wealth, a large library and one of the most important
herbaria of his time. We do not know how Lambert got
notice of Pav6n's dealings, but we know that between
1814 and until 1825 Pav6n sold to him more than
15,000 botanical and zoological specimens that were
kept at the Botanical Office in Madrid.
But Lambert was not the only one to receive
materials from Pav6n. As an example, let us mention
the almost 5,000 specimens which Philip Baker Webb

received between 1826 y 1827, that today form part of
the herbarium of the Botanical Institute of Florence,
as part of a legacy from Webb to the Duke of Tuscany
(Fig. 20C).

John Lindley and the Lambert herbarium. Pav6n's
conduct does not admit excuses. But if we look at this
case from a practical point of view, the sale of the
herbarium specimens of the expedition was perhaps
the best way to bring the botanical richness of New
Spain into the hands of the botanists of those times
(although this was surely not the motive of Pav6n).
The main herbarium that was conserved at the Royal
Botanical Garden in Madrid (probably with about
half of the original number of specimens) was not
unpacked until 1930. The specimens were numbered
and sent on loan to Chicago where, between 1936
and 1964, all were identified and photographed,
before being returned to Madrid (McVaugh, 2000: 1).
In other words: all specimens that were not sold by
Pav6n had to wait over 140 years before they could
be studied!
Generous with his colleagues and friends,
Lambert always gave them free use of his library
and herbarium. In this manner the great John Lindley
(1799-1865) (Fig. 21A) was able to study and identify
many of the specimens that came from Madrid. In
his monumental work The Genera and Species of
Orchidaceous Plants (1830-40) Lindley mentions a
total of 12 species based on material that had been
sold by Pav6n to Lambert.In all of his descriptions we
find the following note by Lindley 'Hab. in Mexico;
Pavon, (exam. s. sp. in Herb. Lambert)'. This note
was the reason why Pav6n was considered, for many
years, the collector of this species, forgetting that
he had never been to Mexico. Two of the species
described by Lindley (Epidendrum fruticosum y
Epidendrum radicans) have, as the name of their
author, 'Pavon ex Lindl.' This indicates that Lindley
respected an epithet that had already been suggested
by Pav6n (Fig. 21B).

Augustin De Candolle and the "Ladies of Geneva"
The 2,000 illustrations of the botanical expedition to
New Spain went a different way. Mociflo marched

15 The Botanical Office ("Oficina Botanica"), located in Madrid as a dependence of the Ministry of Justice of the Indies, was
conceived as a State Center for the study and publication of the American flora.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


TABLE 5. Species described by Lindley based on specimens in the Lambert herbarium that had been bought from Pav6n.

Name given by Lindley Botanical name that is valid today

Epidendrum bidentatum Lindl.
Epidendrumfloribundum H. B. K.
E .,I, I ,,,,,1 i ,,i...... ,, Pavon ex Lindl.
Epidendrum polyanthum Lindl.
Epidendrum radicans Pavon ex Lindl.
Epidendrum raniferum Lindl.
Epidendrum vitellinum Lindl.
Eucnemis brevilabris Lindl.
Oncidiumfunereum Lindl.
Oncidium pauciflorum Lindl.
Ponerajuncifolia Lindl.
Stanhopea bucephalus Lindl.

with them to his exile in Montpellier, where he met
the Swiss botanist Augustin Pyramus De Candolle
(1778-1841) (Fig. 21C), who was impressed by the
quality of the work. A short time later Mocifio, who
seemed to have lost all hopes of returning to Spain,
gave the drawings and the manuscripts of the Flora
Mexicana to De Candolle, who took them with him
in 1816 to Geneva. Six months later, in April, 1817,
he received a letter from Mocifio, who was still in
Montpellier, letting him know that he had received
permission to return to Spain, and asking him to
return the collections. Honest until his last days,
Mociflo dared not to go back without the drawings:
they belonged to the Crown (McVaugh, 1998).
With the help of more than 120 volunteers,
most of them ladies of Geneva's high society, De
Candolle managed to copy almost 1,200 plates in
only 10 days. Together with 300 duplicates, that
were a gift from Mocifio, he formed a collection of
13 bound volumes known today as the Flora of the
Ladies of Geneva. Many species discovered during
the expedition to New Spain could be known during
the XIX century thanks to this work. Since, as we
shall see later, the original drawings of Mociflo
disappeared from 1817 until 1981, the collection of
copies and duplicates in Geneva became the only
source of knowledge about the illustrations of the
expedition. In De Candolle's two main works, his
Regni Vegetabilis Systema Naturae (1817-1821)
and his Prodomus Systematics Naturales Regni
Vegetabilis (1824-1873, completed by his son

Encyclia bidentata (Lindl.) Hags. & Soto Arenas
Epidendrumpaniculatum Ruiz & Pav6n
Er. I k, ... r; f ii.. '".., Pavon ex Lindl.
Epidendrum polyanthum Lindl.
Epidendrum radicans Pavon ex Lindl.
Epidendrum raniferum Lindl.
Prosthechea vitellina (Lindl.) W. E. Higgins
Govenia liliacea (Lex.) Lindl.
Oncidium reflexum Lindl.
Oncidium pauciflorum Lindl.
Ponerajuncifolia Lindl.
Stanhopea oculata (Lodd.) Lindl.

Alphonse), more than 300 species of plants were
described based on the drawings of the expedition.
Encyclia candollei (Lindl.) Schltr. was dedicated to
De Candolle. Apparently only 10 species of orchids
were copied. Most of them have been identified to
date, although -again- we can not be certain that they
belong to our area of study, since no localities of
collection are indicated. The originals of six of these
copies are still preserved in the Torner Collection of
the Hunt Institute.
With the recovered collections, Mocifio returned
to Spain, where the illustrations disappeared after
his death. In 1981 they were discovered by the

TABLE 6. Orchidaceae in the "Flora of the Ladies of
Geneva" (Torner: Number of the original drawing in the
collection of the Hunt Institute; Icones: original number
assigned by Sess6 y Mocifo; DC: Number assigned by
De Candolle).

Botanical name
Bletia roezli
Cypripedium irapeanum
Encyclia lancifolia
Prosthechea radiata
Govenia sp.
Malaxis camosa
Malaxis unifolia
Spiranthes cinnabarina
Sacoila lanceolata
/i, ... ..!. i ,. aurantiacus

cornerr Icone
0091 258
1112 294
0370 253
0218 175
0219 176
1751 174

s DC

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America





a.r.2L< 3,1xri L.~tl7.l 7kb 74. m

FIGURE 20. A Front cover of Mocifo's unpublished manuscript for the Flora of New Spain. San Pio Aladr6n, 2005: 72. B
Aylmer Bourke Lambert (1761-1842). Courtesy of the Oakes Ames Herbarium, Harvard University. C -Dispersal of the
botanical collections proceeding from the expeditions to Peru and New Spain. San Pio Aladr6n & Puig-Samper, 2000: 11.

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San Luis (MO) Nue Yok (NY)
K--(K L H own *- Bemni ---. iWdr M )
SI *

--I t -d -in OxhxdrC

| -. P"a lin -----I Fishr -- o Sa n cr

-- Oiap (F)
r S-El-,lin (B- - Madrd (MAF)
I--Ktmh ---- Wahin (US)
t - Halle (HAL)
-*Greifsald -------I--- Ginebra(G)
SPari (P)
r 3"ch (r Y (GE)
--- Bneas(BR)
esarB--r i--Chao (FI


D[)i'tI J AJ 1 IE I- Ga dnr - Floretci (Fl)
R1IIZORPAV(N --M Moaic3nd -- Ginebr(G)
--- Hoflmasgg - Wilk no--.* Bedin(BW)
Real ardin Bodnke Madhd (A ..--.------------.- ekndr an Hedrin(B)
I - culd de F anmci de Mdrid (Dpm. dc Fanracogia
---.*. Acad ea dc ,-Cia y Artes de Br m --* Jalrudn Bo nnic de Barcelona (BC

--- Hcrrodc Favdn (cdlecidn pariular) --------- BO1SSm ---. Ginera(G)I
i- Real Adenmi de Medinci Madd

---Lambert drs (BM)
I--- Heredcos der uizl (reocin pannkhrl -- ----...- M e Arqum gico Nac il
S--Pcua de Migul -- LBareir - Ardhio Muse Naidoul de Censa Natues
-*.Gonzlez HkPIo -- Real Acadmia de Cirncas Erats, Fisicas y Nauuales
de Madrid (no lalimad,


4rAW (LE)

I F.-


FIGURE 21. A John Lindley (1799-1865). From a contemporary etching. In Orquidea (Mex.), June 1975: 90. B Copy of a
page of the list of specimens sent by Pav6n to Lambert, where the epithet radicans was used for the the first time. Courtesy of
the British Museum of Natural History and of Henry Oakeley. C Augustin Pyramus De Candolle (1778-1841). Courtesy of
the Oakes Ames Herbarium, Harvard University. D Jose Cecilio del Valle (1777-1834). Hall & Perez Brignoli, 2001: 168.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation of
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the private library of
the Torner family in Barcelona, and acquired for the
ridiculous sum of 2,000 pesetas (ca. $12) for each
illustration. As had happened 160 years earlier with
the herbarium specimens, the illustrations of the
expedition of Sess6 and Mocifio went abroad under
the accommodating eyes of the Spanish government.
Poor and sick, Mociflo died in Barcelona in 1820.
His friend, the Spanish botanist Mariano Lagasca,
wrote in November of the same year to De Candolle:
"Mociflo noster sex abhinc mensibus e vita discessit
in urbe Barcinonensi ... Vir certe melioris fortunae
dignus" (McVaugh, 1998).
The history of the expedition to New Spain does
not have a happy end: Sess6 in 1808 and Mocifio
in 1820, died without fulfilling their dream of
publishing the floras of Mexico and Guatemala.
Lambert died in 1842 and the provision in his will
that his herbarium should be kept intact was not
obeyed. His collections were auctioned in separate
lots and dispersed all over the world (Anonymous,
1842). An important part of the materials that Pavon
had sold to Lambert passed into the hands of the
British Museum of Natural History, where they
still remain. Another significant portion is today in
Geneva. Pav6n was finally asked to account for his
acts in 1831 and three years later the Board of the
Science Museum of Madrid suspended him from his
salary. A sad guardian of the treasures brought from
America by the botanical expeditions of the latter
XVIII century, he died in disgrace in 1840.
Mariano de la Paz wrote these words in reference
to the collections of the Spanish expedition of 1862
to the Pacific16, words that are valid for practically
all materials that came to Spain as a product of the
great expeditions of the Century of Light: "These
precious collections, brought together at so much
effort, await, as many others of similar origin which
have been neglected for years in the limbus of
Science, the doubtful arrival of a naturalist savoir,
who will glorify their authors, bringing them to
light, if moths and ants did not get to them first"
(Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid,1989: 97).

The Cabinet of Natural History of Guatemala.
Aside from its scientific achievements, the Royal
Botanical Expedition to New Spain, bearer of the ideas
and ideals of the Enlightenment, had a strong influence
on the social and political environment of Central
America in the last years of the XVIII century.
The Royal Economical Society of Friends of the
Country of Guatemala was founded in 1795, as a
result of the new ideas that were slowly imposing
themselves upon the colony. Life in the capital of
Guatemala went on in this ambience of reforms, in the
last years of the XVIII century, when the expedition
arrived, proceeding from the largest and most
advanced city in America, which was the capital of
Mexico" (Maldonado Polo,1996: 78-79). Longinos
Martinez established contacts to the Society, that had
among its priorities the development of natural history.
In December 1796, and due to the efforts of
Longinos Martinez, the Cabinet of Natural History
of Guatemala was solemnly inaugurated, with the
presence of the prominence and high authorities of
the Captaincy General. As we will see, the presence
this day of Jose Cecilio del Valle (1777-1834) (Fig.
21C) was of extraordinary importance. During the
inauguration, the museum of natural history opened
its doors to the public and the first pupils were tested:
Pascasio Ortiz de Letona and Mariano Antonio de
Larrave. Mociflo and Longinos Martinez shared
their knowledge, carrying out the first physical and
chemical analysis of the drinking water in the area
around the city.
Although the Society was prohibited in 1799, its
ideas prevailed. And it is no coincidence that it was
Del Valle who drafted, twenty two years later, the
declaration of independence of the Captaincy General,
that was signed in Guatemala on September 15, 1821,
and that we find the name of Mariano Larrave amongst
those who signed it.
At the end of this period we must mention what
was perhaps the best posthumous homage that Mocifio
received: that of his friend Pablo La Llave, who in
1832 designated the resplendent quetzal, the mythical
bird of freedom in Central America since prehispanic
times, with the name of Pharomachrus mocinno.

16 The "Spanish Scientific Commission of the Voyage to the Pacific (1862-1866)" explored mainly South America, with the
exception of a short visit to Taboga Island (I' i' ,from where no collections of Orchidaceae are recorded.

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By the law of the seas and the distances,
America can only belong to i itl
Fray Servando Teresa de Mier (1811)

Times of change. After independence in 1821, the
Central American republics joined the ephemeral
Mexican empire of Agustin de Iturbide. The Central
American Federation was constituted in 1825, under
the name of United Provinces of the Center of America.
Mexico became a federal republic in 1824, under the
name of the United Mexican States.
In those confusing times, the spirit of Enlightenment
remained present for a short period of time. "On
October 5, 1825 [Jose Cecilio del Valle] addressed
a letter to the Secretary of the Supreme Government
proposing an expedition, financed by European
and Guatemalan investors. He even proposed that
Alexander von Humboldt should come back to
America, suggesting he start with the Central American
regions. The German never came back, but a large
number of botanists started exploring the area during
the XIX and XX centuries" (Brading, 1991: 639).
In Mexico, Juan Martinez de Lexarza (1785-1824),
Pablo de La Llave (1773-1833) and Vicente Cervantes
(1755-1829) continued the work started by Sess6 and
Mocifio, of whose expedition Cervantes had been a
member. A word about Cervantes: such was his prestige
in Mexico, where he held the chair of Botany, that the
Mexican government, although he was a Spaniard,
maintained him in his position after independence. He
directed the Chair and the Botanical Garden until his death,
and was also in charge of the pharmacy of the Hospital
of San Andres, where he set up an excellent chemical
laboratory. Cervantes was a brilliant investigator of the
Mexican flora and described many new species. He kept a
close scientific relationship withAntonio Jose Cavanilles,
the great Spanish botanist, to whom he sent large amounts
of material, and had also connections with Alexander von
Humboldt and Aime Bonpland, whose friendship he had
made during their stay in Mexico. William Bullock, who
arrived in Mexico in 1823, visited the Botanical Garden
and praised its beauty and the perfection with which the
plants were kept. He met Professor Cervantes and was
thankful for receiving a total of 31 plants, for which
Cervantes provided the botanical names. No orchids are
found in this list (Bullock, 1825: 147-152).

Lexarza's work, Novorum Vegetabilium Descriptio-
nes, was published in 1824-1825. One hundred species
where described, in conjunction with La Llave and
Cervantes, as new to science. The Orchidianum
Opusculum that appeared in the second fascicle of
1825 includes the descriptions of 50 new species
of Orchidaceae distributed in 20 genera, of which
4 proved to be new. Lexarza proposed here a new
classification of orchids, based on an analysis of their
seeds and pollen.
"Lexarza gave promise of making an accomplished
botanist, but he attempted too much and was cut
off young. Several of his orchids have not been
identified in consequence of their descriptions being
imperfect" (Hemsley, 1887: 122). The Mexican state
of Michoacan, where most of the plants described
in the Novorum Vegetabilium Descriptiones were
collected, lies outside of our limits. It is therefore
not clear if Lexarza should be included in this story.
However, there are evidences that he, or La Llave (or
both) collected plants from other families in the area
of Veracruz, many of which can also be found in other
regions of Central America.
The following species, among others, were
dedicated to Lexarza: Cypripedium lexarzae Scheidw.,
Macroclinium lexarzanum (Hags. & Gonzalez)
Dodson, Maxillaria lexarzana Soto Arenas & Cabrera
and Notylia lexarzana Hags. & Gonzalez. On the other
hand, La Llave is remembered in Epidendrum llavei
Steud. and Schiedeella llaveana Schltr. And both
honored their friend Cervantes with Rhynchostele
cervantesii (La Llave & Lex.) Soto Arenas & Salazar.
The works of Lexarza, De La Llave and Cervantes
are the last examples of 'Spanish botany' in Central
America. It does not surprise us therefore, that many
of their collections went the same way as those of the
great Spanish expeditions of the preceding century and
ended up lost in the hands of Spanish bureaucracy.
In 1836, Joaquin Velasquez, assigned to the Mexican
Legation in Rome, brought with him a small collection
of dried plants and seeds collected in Guatemala, which
formed the basis of the Florula Guatimalensis (1840)
of Antonio Bertoloni (1775-1869) although no species
of Orchidaceae are mentioned in this work. Bertoloni
was the most important Italian botanist of his time and
was also interested in exotic plants that he received
from his friends. His collections of samples are kept in

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

the archives of the Botanic Garden of Bologna.
Those were times of change. The Central American
Federation was dissolved in 1838. While the newly
born Central American nations took their first steps
in republican life, other powers, particularly Great
Britain and the United States, sharpened their weapons
to fill the void left by Spain. "All Europe is now, after
those immense territories were opened, occupied with
commercial speculations in those directions" (Schott,
F., Preface by the translator in Bullock, 1825: vi).
Central American society, overwhelmed with
political, economical and social problems of great
magnitude, could not find time or resources for the
development of the natural sciences. As Wells wrote
in 1857: "Since their separation from the Spanish
authority, the Central American States have been,
with brief intervals, a sorrow example to all lovers
of republican institutions. The experiment of self-
government has proved to be a pitiful failure, after
thirty years of revolutions and exhausting wars"
(Wells, 1857: 419). In fact, with the notable exception
of the trio formed by Martinez de Lexarza, de La Llave
and Cervantes, we can not talk about a national science
in Central America until the last quarter of the XIX
century. The scientific discovery of the natural richness
of the region was left in hands of foreign explorers,
collectors and travelers, who would soon start arriving
at its shores.

"... it was neither to provide us with food or
raiment, nor to protect us from disease or cold,
that tropical forests were made to teem with an
almost endless variety (c i-^d tribe [Orchidaceae]:
either, :/ .,,. '.,,. in the cheerless spirit ofatheism,
we must suppose them to have been created in
vain, or we must conclude that their office was
something other and higher than to minister to
the mere animal necessities of our nature. No;
it was to yield us a pleasure of an intellectual
kind, and so to win our iiT i. .. from more
;,,,, ii,,1 things, that these most worthless of plants
were clothed in unrivalled charms; it was to
provide a rich banquet in the temple of Flora,
which, while it yielded the utmost enjoyment to
her most constant votaries, might, at the same
time, draw round her innocent table those who

were more rarely numbered among her guests; an
entertainment, in short, which might attract the
man of pleasure by its splendour, the virtuoso by
its rarity, and :1 ./, f. -fscience by its novelty and
extraordinary character It is, we are convinced,
on this principle alone that we can attempt to
understand the 'Orchido-Mania', which now
pervades all (and especially the upper) classes,
to such a marvellous extent. Not contented with
the exertions of our foreign connexions, we send
men expressly to all the points of the compass, to
swell the number (i.-ilo species in cultivation; and
in this zeal for their introduction, the amateur,
the nurseryman, and the public establishment,
all vie with each other The nobility, the clergy,
those engaged in the learned professions or in the
pursuits of commerce, seem alike unable to resist
the influence of the prevailing passion; nay, if we
may trust a paragraph in a morning paper, it has
even extended to Windsor Castle itself "
James Bateman, in the introduction to
Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala (1843)

Around the same time that Pav6n was dealing with
Lambert and selling the botanical samples of the Royal
Spanish expeditions, enthusiasm for orchids increased
in England. "Exotic orchids arrived in Europe at a
propitious moment, an epoch pulsing with an appetite
and admiration for exotic flora. They represented the
fascination and loveliness of far-off lands that were
fast coming closer as colonialists built up the great
empires of the nineteenth century. It was in such
conquered territories that orchids were uprooted or
stripped from trees and rocks, beginning their long
journey to hothouses and herbaria" (Berliochii, 2000:
The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in
1804 by Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) and a few
years later started sending out collectors to the tropical
regions (Fig. 22A). In 1812, Joachim Conrad Loddiges
(1738-1821), was becoming fairly successful in
cultivating the 'Epidendrums' or 'air plants', as nearly
all the epiphytic species were termed, and increasing
numbers of their plants began appearing at the newly
established horticultural exhibitions" (Reinikka, 1995:
26). The nurseries of Loddiges in Hackney, managed
after his death by his son George (1784-1846), signaled

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the beginnings of commercial orchid cultivation, and
many plants grown by Loddiges became the types for
new species, described chiefly by Lindley in Edwards'
Botanical Register.
Through its expanding collection of tropical plants,
the Royal Horticultural Society contributed to the
popularization of the orchids among the wealthy
classes. The fashion of growing orchids as a hobby
had its real beginning in 1833 when William Spencer
Cavendish, sixth Duke of Devonshire, discovered a
plant of Oncidium papilio at one of the aforementioned
exhibitions (Fig. 22B).
"A number of commercial nurseries found it highly
profitable to supply the demand for new species, and
several hired collectors to travel into the tropical areas
of the world where they might locate new sources of
species that had already become horticulturally popular
- and to collect new species which might stimulate
further interest and profit" (Reinikka, 1995: 27). A
new breed of adventurers started exploring the tropics
in search of new species. The mania for possessing
orchids raised the prices of all available plants. Great
auctions were held in London and Liverpool where
prices of one hundred pounds for a single plant were
not unusual. "This is the epic phase in the orchid's
history, written in the sweat and blood of a group of
adventurers and explorers the hunters of wild flowers
that could sometimes prove every bit as dangerous as
their animal counterparts" (Berliocchi, 200: 59-60)
(Fig. 22C).
The invention, in about 1829, of the "Wardian
case", by Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward unleashed a
revolution in the mobility of commercially important
plants. Dr. Ward was a physician with a passion for
botany who accidentally discovered that fern spores
were germinating and growing in a bit of soil inside
of a bottle, thus protected from the contamination of
the outside air. Ward communicated his discovery
to George Loddiges, who had a carpenter build him
closely-fitted glazed wooden cases. The first "Wardian
cases" were shipped to Australia in 1833, filled with
British ferns and grasses, and after a voyage of several
months the plants were found still in good condition
(Gomez, 2007: 481-482). Wardian cases soon became
features of stylish drawings rooms in Western Europe
and the United States. In the polluted air of Victorian
cities, the fern craze and the craze for growing orchids

that followed owed much of their impetus to the new
Wardian cases.
By 1834, 'orchidomania' had spread throughout
England. But orchid cultivation also flourished
elsewhere. M. Pescatore, of St. Cloud, near Paris,
was one of the first Europeans outside England to
grow orchids as a leisure activity, having cultivated
a large collection of plants for many years as had
Consul Schiller of Hamburg, Germany (Reinikka,
1995: 31). According to Linden, Jean-Pierre Pescatore
(1793-1855) had 'la plus riche collection d'Orchidees
du continent' ( the richest orchid collection of
the Continent). Reichenbach dedicated to him the
genus Pescatoria. Many personalities from other
countries were instrumental also in the discovery and
introduction of new species. As orchid cultivation
gained in fashionability in England, horticulturists in
Belgium were quick to recognize that trade in tropical
and subtropical orchids could be profitable. In 1838 the
passion for orchids had already extended to the United
States, where John Wright Boott, of Boston, received
a collection of plants sent to him from England by his
brother James. Years later (ca. 1870), General John
F. Rathbone, of Albany, New York, wrote: "I was so
delighted with the plant and flowers that I caught the
Orchid fever, which I am happy to say is now prevailing
to considerable extent in this country, and which I trust
will become epidemic" (Reinikka, 1995: 31).
Very soon, scientists and collectors would turn their
eyes to the natural richness of Central America, thus
beginning one of the most interesting periods in the
history of the orchids of this region (Fig. 23A).

Britannia rules the waves

"To thee belongs the rural reign
Thy cities shall with commerce shine
All thine shall be, shall be the subject main
And every shore it circles thine. "
'Rule Britannia' from
Thomas Augustine Arne (1710-1788)

Orlando W Roberts, an English merchant who arrived
at the Gulf of Darien in 1816 and conducted trade with
the natives of the Central American East coast during
seven years, wrote an interesting account of his travels
in his book Narrative of Voyages and Excursions on
the East Coast and in the Interior of Central America,

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

published in 1827. Roberts sailed along the coast from
Panama to Cape Gracias a Dios, in Honduras, and spend
considerable time with the Miskitos in Nicaragua and
with the "Valientes" in Panama. His descriptions of
the natives' use of cocoa and vanilla are in the chapter
about The History of Vanilla. But Roberts was also
important because he was one of the first travelers to
explore a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
For this, he navigated the San Juan River to the Lake
of Nicaragua, and went then on to the Pacific. In San
Juan del Norte, Roberts was detained by the Spanish
authorities and sentenced to death for being a spy for
the independentists. Roberts escaped narrowly and was
later acquitted of all charges (Fig. 23B).
Immediately after independence, the opening of
commercial relations with the British created a sudden
rise in business. Merchants from Belize, who had been
trading illegally with Guatemala for the preceding
twenty years, gained access and direct contacts to most
of Central America" (Wortman, 1991: 227). Britain had
prevailed in the long-lasting naval war against Spain and
France between 1790 and 1815 and had almost gained
a monopoly on world naval trade. The United States,
whose power increased day by day, responded quickly.
In 1823 president Monroe formulated the 'Monroe
Doctrine', that stipulated that the American continent
should not be subject to European colonization and
that the United States would not tolerate European
intervention. This doctrine can be resumed in the classic
expression: 'America for the Americans'. It was the
beginning of the fight among the powers on Central
American soil, a fight that initially favored Great Britain
and that only in the second half of the century would
turn slowly in favor of the United States.
Burdened by great economic problems, the first
federal president, Manuel Jose de Arce, embarked on a
bold revolutionary program. The tax reform eliminated
unpopular Spanish levies, but left little revenue to
cover the debt assumed from the colonial and imperial
governments or to pay for expensive new projects. Arce
turned to British capitalists to meet the financial crisis,
but a loan from the London firm of Barclay, Herring &
Richardson produced only a small amount of cash for
the federation. Since the government repaid practically
none of it, the loan did not place an immediate burden
on the federation's finances, but the indebtedness
remained for decades, providing repeated opportunities

for British diplomats to negotiate favorable concessions
for British economic interests" (Woodward, 1997).
Possible routes for the construction of an interoceanic
canal in Central America began to be explored. "In the
monumental work in which he describes his voyage
to the New World from 1799 to 1804, Alexander
von Humboldt names nine possible routes for an
interoceanic canal and urges scientific studies in order
to decide which was the most advantageous, since
only incomplete studies had been done on some of
them. Among these routes he names that of Nicaragua,
to that he assigns the first place, and the route of
Panama, that he places fourth after those of Atrato and
Tehuantepec. A real comparative study between the
various canal routes was not undertaken until many
years later, but the Panama route was explored in
1827 by Lloyd and Falmare, in 1831 by Peacock and
in 1844 by Garella; and that of Nicaragua in 1837 by
Baily, in 1848 by Oersted and in 1850 by Childs. In
addition to these explorations there were many projects
that used information of prior surveys. Among these
we can cite those of Prince Louis Napoleon in 1846,
Squier in 1849 and Belly in 1858" (Montiel, 1969).
Let us remember that Panama had been discovered by
Christopher Columbus on his 4th trip in 1502. It was
then that a canal was first envisioned by King Carlos V
of Spain who ordered the very first topographic studies
for the construction of a canal through the narrowest
part of the isthmus (80 kilometers). A Royal Order from
February 20, 1534 to the Governor of Panama Pascual
de Andagoya said that "having been informed that the
River Chagres, that enters into the North Sea, can be
navigated with caravels for three or four leagues, and
other three or four in barges, and that from there to
the South Sea there are another four leagues by land...
you shall go to see the land from the River Chagres to
the South Sea and examine what form and order can
be given to open that land so that, once opened, the
South Sea can join said river, so that navigation can
happen, and to explore what difficulties it has, be it
by the tides of the sea or by the height of the land, and
what cost in money and men will be necessary, and in
what time it can be done..." (Ediciones Balboa, 2007:
5). This was a visionary project but unfortunately such
an enterprise was beyond the capabilities of the period.
Andagoya informed his King that, although the canal
could be built, it would demand more resources than

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those available to any ruler of that time (Sosa & Arce,
1964: 80).
Basil Hall (1788-1844) a British naval officer from
Scotland, was probably the first European to set foot in
our region after the independence from Spain. In the
years of 1820 to 1822, Hall sailed in the command of
H.M.S. Conway along the Pacific coast of South and
Central America. In February of 1822 he anchored
in Panama, where he stayed for a few days, sailing
from there to Acapulco, in Mexico. While in Panama,
Hall discussed with one of the merchants of the place,
who had particularly studied the question of cutting
a passage across the isthmus. "He was of the opinion
that an immense and immediate advantage would be
gained by making a good road from sea to sea across
the isthmus; which might be done very easily, and at
an expense incalculably less than a canal could be cut,
under the most favourable circumstances..." (Hall,
1824: 158-159).
In 1825, an Englishman by the name of John Hale
signed a colonization agreement with the Costa Rican
government of Juan Mora Fernandez. "The purpose of
Hale was to form this colony with North American and
British families..., and in the year 1826 he published a
pamphlet in the city of New York, with the intention of
making the new land known to the future settlers, a land
overflowing with natural richness, which only awaited
their arrival to become a paradise" (Hale, 1826).
"The natural history of foreign seas and countries is
abundantly studied by men who 'live at home at ease'
in the midst of cabinets and books, dependent for their
specimens of birds, shells, or insects, on the stores
of dealers in such objects; but the number of those
who have undergone the arduous personal exertion of
collecting them, with a scientific spirit, in their native
haunts, is comparatively few. Of this small number
the life and adventures of Mr. Hugh Cuming present
one of the most remarkable instances of record"
(Dance, 1980: 477). Hugh Cuming (1791-1865) (Fig.
24A) landed in Central America in 1829, during one
of his multiple voyages. Born near Kingsbridge in
Devon, Cuming's early interest in natural history was
fostered by well-known naturalist George Montagu
(1751-1815). Around 1820, Cuming traveled to
Chile, where he established a sail making business.
Interested in natural history, he sold his business
17 The name appears indistinctly as Henchman or Henchmann.

and built a yacht designed with the sole purpose of
collecting specimens for the British Museum and
some botanical gardens. It was a schooner which he
named Discoverer, fitted out expressly for the purpose
of storing natural objects (Dance, 1980: 478). In 1831
he returned to England with a huge load of animals,
plants and shells for several museums and gardens.
"It may also be mentioned that Hugh Cuming, the
well-known and extensive collector of objects of
natural history, collected in Taboga I. and in the Pearl
Islands, Panama, and Montijo Bay, Chiriqui river,
around 1829, and there is a set of his plants in the Kew
Herbarium; but it is impossible to distinguish in many
cases which were collected within our limits, because
they are labeled 'Panama et Colombia occidentalis"'
(Hemsley, 1887: 133). According to Dance, Cuming
collected in our region in the Gulf of Panama, Pearl
Islands, Gulf of Chiriqui, Puntarenas (Costa Rica),
El Realejo (Nicaragua) and the Gulf of Fonseca,
in Honduras (Dance, 1980: 482). At least four of
Cuming's specimens from Central America became
the types for new species described by Lindley:
Aspasia epidendroides ('Cuming s.n.'), Oncidium
(=Chelyorchis) ampliatum ('Cuming 1312') (Fig.
24B), Dichaea panamensis ('Cuming 1292') and
Hexisea (= .!.,, /-I1. -ii, bidentata ('Cuming s.n.').
All four are still quite common in Central America.
Cuming collected later in the Philippines and although
he was barely capable of signing his own name, his
botanical instinct led him to the discovery of thirty-
three new species of orchids. He was called, with
good reason 'The Prince of Collectors'. For 20 years,
he acted as a dealer in natural history material, buying
and selling collections obtained by other naturalists
in many parts of the world." Cuming developed a
reputation for returning "living" plants to England
(Herman, 1994: 14). "Such men as Cuming live after
their death, and hence the marvellous increase within
a very few years, in our knowledge of Nature, and of
God's bounty to the world" (Dance, 1980: 495).
The father of Hugh Low ( 1824 1905 ), a
Scot by birth, established in 1820 one of the most
prestigious English nurseries in Clapton, near
London. Young Low followed soon his father's
ideals. The firm was one of the first to receive
orchids from the Tropics. John Henchmann (1814

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

-.' L . .1 1. i ;h - I

FIGURE 22. A -Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820). Portrait by Benjamin West, courtesy of the Hunt Institute for Botanical
Documentation. B -Oncidium papilio, Edwards Botanical Register, plate 1825. C -Typical British greenhouse: the
'epiphyte house' of Bateman at Knypersley Hall. In Bateman, 1837-43: 18.

LANKESTERIANA9(- 2), August 2009. 0 Unversidad de CostaRcRa, 2009.



A-- N-C,. --, ,

A7 T .. A I


FIGURE 23. A The Plant Hunter. Drawing by Paul Weber, 1941, from Hamer, 1974 (courtesy of Hedwig Hamer). B Map
of Nicaragua by Orlando Roberts. In Roberts, 1965.

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-1893)17, working for Low, collected in Mexico
between 1835 and 1840, especially in the region of
Veracruz, discovering an important number of new
species of Orchidaceae: Laelia barkeriana Knowles
& Westc. ('Plant cultivated by G. Barker, sent to
him by J. Henchman from the vicinity of Jalapa'),
Oncidium luridum var. henchmannii Knowles &
Westc. (Henchmann s.n.), Maxillaria henchmannii
Hook. (Henchmann s.n.), Maxillaria cucullata
Lindl. ('a native of Equinoctial America, whence
it is said to have been brought by Mr. Henchman')
(Fig. 24C), Humboldtia octomerioides (Lindl.)
Kuntze (Henchmann s.n.), and Stanhopea tigrina
Bateman ex Lindl. ('Henchman s.n., 1835, Habitat
in Mexico, proper urbem Xalapam'). He also worked
for George Barker and had been before in Venezuela,
from where we know of at least one collection,
Chysis aurea Lindl. ('in the valley of Cumanacoa,
in Venezuela, Mr. Henchman s.n.').
Much later, in 1864, Captain John M. Dow mentions
a collector by the name of Macgee, who collected
orchids for Low in Guatemala, but we have no other
information about him (Letter from Dow to Skinner,
Feb. 20, 1864).
The genus Barkeria was first described by Knowles
and Westcott in 1838 and named in honour of George
Barker (1776-1845) of Springfield, England, who
had imported a plant from Mexico. Barker was a
pioneer in importing orchids, mainly from Mexico,
among which many new species were discovered.
A few of them are: Trichopilia tortilis Lindl. (G.
Barker s.n., Mexico), Pleurothallis (=Restrepiella)
ophiocephala Lindl. (Mexico, Loddiges & Barker
s.n.), Odontoglossum cordatum Lindl. ('George
Barker s.n., flowered in cultivation, originally from
Mexico'), Microstylis excavata Lindl. (Mexico, Mr.
Barker s.n.), andLaeliafurfuracea Lindl. (Karwinski,
Oaxaca). Barker is undoubtedly an important figure
in the introduction of orchids from our region to
Europe, in the early years after the independence
of the Central American countries from Spain. "As
a botanist, Mr. Barker was much distinguished. He
bestowed considerable attention on the cultivation of
orchidaceous plants, of which he had a collection that
is believed to have been almost unique, and certainly
was unsurpassed in value by that of any private
horticulturist in Europe" (Urban, 1846: 324-325).

John Ross (?-?), who collected orchids between
1837-1840 in Mexico, sent many plants to Barker,
among them several species of Odontoglossum for
which Schlechter, in 1916, proposed the name of
Rossioglossum in his honor (Schlechter, 1916: 153).
The name was formally published as a new genus by
Garay and Kennedy in 1976. Another species named
for him was Odontoglossum rossii Lindl., today
Rhynchostele rossii (Lindl.) Soto Arenas y Salazar
('A charming plant, sent to Mr. Barker from Mexico
by his collector Mr. Ross, after whom it is named').
"Ross started in 1837, but his collection did not reach
England till the following year. It included the beautiful
Odontoglossum rossii andPeristeria (Acineta) barkeri,
the latter being discovered in a dark ravine in the
neighbourhood of Xalapa" (Anonymous, 1931: 364).
Other collections by Ross include Peristeria barkeri
Bateman (Ross s.n., Jalapa), Galeandra baueri Lindl.
('Ross s.n., Mexico'), Laelia majalis Lindl. ('Habitat
in Mexico Schiede, Hartweg, Ross'), Epidendrum
aloifolium L. and Chysis laevis Lindl. ('Habitat in
Mexico Ross').
The British naval expeditions to the coasts of
Central America, the most important being those of
H.M. S. Conway (1822), H.M.S. Blossom (1827) and of
H.M.S. Sulphur (1836), had undoubtedly also scientific
purposes, but their main goal was the geographical
exploration and the construction of reliable maps
preparing for a future domination of the region and the
control of the canal routes.
The decade which began in 1840 "is the epoch of
maximum English power in Central America. Great
Britain would try to confront the growing power of
the United States and both nations would choose the
border region between Costa Rica and Nicaragua as the
ground where they would test their forces..." (Obregon
Quesada, 1993: 75). Great Britain, who already had a
stronghold in Belize, pretended in addition the control
of the access to the San Juan river.
"A new period of activity set in, and continued
almost unbroken for many years; but few of the
numerous travelers had received a scientific training,
hence the botanical results were by no means so
satisfactory as they might have been. Indeed, the
principal object of many of these travelers was the
introduction of living plants into European gardens"
(Hemsley, 1887: 123).

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"If we are requested to select the most interesting
from the multitude of vegetable tribes, we should,
on the whole, perhaps, be willing to give the
preference to the natural order of Orchideae.
Whether we consider general elegance of
individuals, durability of blossoms, splendid
colours, delicious perfume, or extraordinary
structure, it would be difficult to select any order
superior to Orchideae in these respects, and few
even equal to them. "

John Lindley, Collectanea Botanica
(in Steam, 1999: 107)

The increasing interest in the botanical exploration
of Central America had its counterpart in the enormous
figure of John Lindley (1790-1865), who in 1830 began
in England the publication of his famous work The
Genera and Species ofOrchidaceous Plants, describing
numerous species which were new to science. The
Austrian botanist Stephan Ladislaus Endlicher (1804-
1849) published his Genera Plantarum secundum
Ordines naturales disposita between 1836 and 1841.
In this work, Endlicher recognized 367 genera of
Orchidaceae, of which 117 had been established by
Lindley (Steam, 1999: 57). Another of Lindley's
ventures was the founding, with Joseph Paxton and
others, of The Gardeners'Chronicle in 1841, of which
the horticultural part was edited by Lindley. Lindley's
editorship for twenty years ensured the maintenance of
a high standard which earned it international repute.
Many species were dedicated to Lindley, of which only
a few, that are found in the American tropics, shall be
mentioned: Aspidogyne lindleyana (Cogn.) Garay,
Barkeria lindleyana Batem. ex Lindl. (Fig. 24D),
Bletia lindleyana Rchb. f, Catasetum lindleyanum
Mansf, Cattleya lindleyana Rchb. f, Cyclopogon
lindleyanus (Link, Klotzsch & Otto) Schltr., Laelia
lindleyana Nichols., Lepanthes lindleyana Oerst.
ex Rchb.f, Malaxis lindleyana Rchb. f, Maxillaria
lindleyana Schltr., Odontoglossum lindleyanum Rchb.
f. & Warsz., Odontoglossum lindleyi Galeotti ex
Lindl., Oncidium lindleyi (Lindl.) R. Jimenez & Soto
Arenas, Phragmipedium lindleyanum (R.H. Schomb.
ex Lindl.) R.A. Rolfe, Pleurothallis lindleyana Cogn.,
Sobralia lindleyana Rchb. f, Stanhopea lindleyi Zucc.,
and Stelis lindleyana Cogn.

Oakes Ames, for many years the leading American
orchidologist, stated that Lindley 'laid the foundations
of modem orchidology'. With that verdict there is and
has long been unanimous agreement (Steam, 1999: 66).
George Ure Skinner (1804-1867) (Fig. 25),
businessman, diplomat and amateur botanist is
without doubt the most fascinating character in the
history of the orchids in Central America during
the first half of the XIX century. "Son of a Scots
clergyman, Skinner steadfastly refused to follow
his father's vocation or in any way to consider an
ecclesiastical or academic career. The call he heard
was from the world of Mammon..." (Berliocchi,
2000: 72). He arrived in Guatemala in 1831 and
joined Carl R. Klee, Consul of the Hanseatic Towns,
with whom he founded the firm of Klee, Skinner &
Co.18 He was actively engaged in the political and
commercial life of the Central American Federation,
not only pursuing his own interests but as an active
agent of those of Great Britain. A skilled diplomat, he
enjoyed the sympathy of most of the Central American
politicians of that time. This made him a valuable
adviser of the omnipotent English Consul Frederick
Chatfield and turned Skinner into one of the principal
ideologists of English policy in Central America,
which pretended territorial gains in exchange for the
unpaid debt resulting from the loan that had been
granted years before to the government of Manuel
Jose de Arce. Klee, Skinner & Co. became the most
important British company not only in Guatemala but
in the whole of Central America in the period before
1850 (Naylor, 1988: 120).
The only route of these days from Europe to the
highlands and the capital of Guatemala was via Jamaica
to Belize, then along the Rio Dulce to Izabal (a small
port on Lake Izabal), and from there by mule over the
terrible road across the Mountains of the Mico, a 10-
day long ride. This route was used by all travelers until
the inauguration of the Panama railway. It became then
much easier to travel to Panama, take the train across
the isthmus and then a ship to Port San Jose or Iztapa,
on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala.
In relation to Skinner's and Klee's activities on Lake
Izabal, Perez de Anton (2005: 80) calls our attention
to what he describes as "the first manifestation of
Spanglish in Central America". Klee, Skinner & Co.

18 According to Wagner (2001: 118), Klee was the first German immigrant to Guatemala.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America


L C.



FIGURE 24. A Hugh Cuming (1791-1865). From a litograph by Hawkins, 1850. Courtesy of Rudolf Jenny. B -Oncidium
ampliatum Lindl. From Reichenbachia. C Maxillaria cucullata Lindl. Curtis' Botanical Magazine, Plate 3945.
D -Barkeria lindleyana Batem. ex Lindl. Curtis's Botanical Magazine, plate 6098.

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ii "


FIGURE 25. George U. Skinner (1804-1867). Portrait by George Washington Bronlow (ca. 1860). Courtesy of the Hunt Institute
for Botanical Documentation.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

^e *^-^~s A^& aaL~- ^,JY /<
2eu ~A-ee~P~ dC. a~~ 4. ___r

A,^, Sfe fecl^ M ^' ^^ *4cun*L
y~1.^ A^- u. a^ <4^A^ *.^L< h^

,c:.-^/ au/ /^S I*C^^ IS^t^-,LX

A s^S^-, C ^^

FIGURE 26. A -Lycaste skinneri. Field note and sketch by Skinner in a letter to Hooker dated December 26, 1840. The
alba variety of Lycaste skinneri is the so-called 'White Nun', the National Flower of Guatemala. In Hamilton, 1991: 776.
B -Cattleya dowiana. Painting by Emilio Span. Courtesy of Dr. Ricardo Kriebel.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.




- ,.- r

- "'-... ^... .' ,

FIGURE 27. James Bateman (1811-1897). Courtesy of Rudolf Jenny.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

built warehouses on the northern shore of the lake
which, in their correspondence, were referred to as The
Store. The place prospered and grew until it became
a small village, which kept the name and is called
today El Estor. Since his arrival in Guatemala Skinner
showed interest for its natural beauties, collecting
birds and insects that he sent to England, persuaded by
his friend, the ornithologist and writer John Gould. So
began his relation with Bateman, who convinced him
to collect orchids. "In his first letters Bateman showed
Skinner by means of descriptions and a few rough
sketches what he was looking for; Skinner quickly
learned all he needed to know how to get started
(Hamilton, 1990: 1241)." Bateman wrote years later:
"My letter [to Skinner], dated March 17, 1834, reached
him in due course, and as he never tired of telling me,
the day of its arrival was as it were a new birthday, for
it gave a fresh interest to his life, which never left him
to his very latest hour" (Hamilton, 1992).
During more than 30 years he traveled constantly
between Guatemala and England, dedicating more and
more time to the orchids. Because of his knowledge
of the land and his excellent relations, he was a great
help to other naturalists who explored Central America
in his time, such as Hartweg, Friedrichsthal, von
Warscewicz and Salvin. All important orchidologists of
his time, from Lindley to Bateman and Bentham, were
his friends, but important above all was his friendship
with Sir William Jackson Hooker, a Scot like him who
was later (1841) to be appointed as Director of the
Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
The almost constant political unrest frequently
interrupted his activities. In 1839 he wrote to Hooker:
"Such has been the state of this Country that my
occupations legitimate have been stopped and had
it not been for my thirst after Orchidaceae long ere I
[would have] cut my throat" (Hamilton, 1990: 1239).
Although he collected chiefly in Guatemala, he
obtained plants from all Central American countries.
Captain John M. Dow, in a letter to Skinner dated
December 30, 1861, recollects his excursions with
Skinner in Nicaragua (El Realejo) and Costa Rica
(Puntarenas and Barranca). A note by Lindley, in his
description of Epidendrum clavatum Lindl. seems to
point to the fact that Skinner collected at some moment
of his life in Venezuela: "Found in August, 1834, near
Cumana [Venezuela], by Mr. Skinner".

He also collected in the Bahamas. The 'Botanical
Register', in its note below plate # 61, Epidendrum
altissimum Jacq., says: "Found in rocky parts of the
Bahamas by the indefatigable Mr. Skinner, from whom
I received it in the summer of 1837. Skinner tells
us about his landing on Crooked Island, Bahamas
and says: "... was much struck with the appearance
of a rock of lava bearing such curious varieties of
plants, I made a considerable collection of Orchideae,
principally Epidendreae...." (in a letter to Hooker,
February 28, 1837).
Within his collections, almost a hundred new species
were found. Some of the types collected by Skinner
are: Barkeria skinneri (Batem. Ex Lindl.) A. Rich.
& Gal., Catasetum integerrimum Hook., Clowesia
russelliana (Hook.) Dodson, Coelia guatemalensis
Rchb. f, Cycnoches egertonianum Batem., Deiregyne
pyramidalis (Lindl.) Bums-Bal., Epidendrum
papillosum Batem., Epidendrum stamfordianum
Batem., Guarianthe aurantiaca (Batem. ex Lindl.)
Dressler & N. H. Wms., Guarianthe skinneri
(Batem.) Dressler & W. E. Higgins, Lycaste skinneri
(Batem. ex Lindl.) Lindl. (Fig. 26A), Odontoglossum
uroskinneri Lindl., Oncidium skinneri Lindl., and
Xylobium elongatum (Lindl.) Hemsl. Two of Skinner's
discoveries were later declared as National Flowers.
The alba variety of Lycaste skinneri, "a thing too
beautiful for words" (Boyle, 1983: 81) is today the
National Flower of Guatemala, while Cattleya (=
Guarianthe) skinneri is the National Flower of Costa
Rica. "...The invaluable Lycaste skinneri, which
now enjoys, and, indeed, richly merits an amount of
popularity a popularity which is ever in the increase -
such as has not been accorded to any other orchid with
which I am acquainted" (Hamilton, 1992: 18).
At the end of his life he pursued, in an almost
obsessive way, the collection of the famous Catlleya
dowiana (dedicated to Captain John M. Dow, of the
Pacific Steamship Company) (Fig. 26B), which had
been discovered years before by Warscewicz. With
this purpose he hired (together with Salvin, for whom
Arce had previously worked) a Guatemalan collector
by the name of Enrique Arce, who also collected birds.
Arce traveled first to Costa Rica and then to Panama,
on board of Captain Dow's ship. Dow, generous as
always, had promised free passage for Arce and his
equipment and collections (Letter from Dow to Salvin,

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February 1, 1864). On Feb. 9, 1864, Arce arrives at
Puntarenas, travels first to the North, along the Gulf of
Nicoya, and goes later to the highlands. At the end of
that year, Arce arrives in Panama. His younger brother
is his companion on his expedition. "Arce is now
here... The poor fellow has been very sick with fever,
and his little brother almost died from the same cause...
I have advised him Arce not to start on his expedition
to Chiriqui until he is in a condition to insure his ability
to go straight through" (Letter from Dow to Salvin,
December 19, 1864). However, Arce seems to have
been more successful in collecting birds than orchids.
Another collector was sent by Skinner to Central
America. In one of Skinner's last letters, to Captain
Dow in Panama on October 17'h, 1866, he said: "By
this steamer we have sent you a fine young fellow, a
Mr. Carl Kramer, who is to go on at once to Costa Rica.
If Arce is still in Panama when this reaches, he will go
on with him, but Arce has been so dilatory about going
after the birds and plants we want, that others have been
beating us in our manor. Cattleya dowiana surpasses
all the Cattleyas yet known... we must get a batch of
it.... And I hope you will for Dowiana's sake take care
that his [Kramer's] collections reach us well, ... for
my credit is at stake. I never was beat. ...Dowiana
for ever." About the naming of Cattleya dowiana we
follow Veitch: "It was the wish of Warscewicz, the
original discoverer, that his plant should bear the name
Lawrenceana, in compliment to Mrs. Lawrence of
Ealing, a generous patroness of Horticulture, but as his
specimens miscarried, this fact was not made known
until after Bateman had named it in compliment to
Captain J. M. Dow of the American Packet Service, to
whose kindness orchidists and men of science owe so
much" (Veitch, 1906: 116-117).
Skinner's partner Klee also discovered a new
species: Epidendrum myrianthum Lindl. (Klee s.n.),
again collected in Guatemala.
In December 1866, Skinner arrived in Panama, on
his way to Guatemala, where he pretended to wrap
up his business for he wanted to retire in England.
He crossed the Isthmus in a railcar and still had time
to collect his last orchids. In those days he wrote to

Veitch: "I have sent home a box, with orders that it
may be sent to you at once. You will find an lonopsis
which may be good, Pleurothallis, and some very
curious Epidendra" (Hamilton, 1993: 182). A few days
later, on January 9th, 1867, he died in Colon, Panama,
a victim of yellow fever. He was buried at Mount
Hope Cemetery, in Colon and his tombstone bears the
following inscription:


Lindley dedicated to him the genus Uroskinnera,
from the Scrophulariaceae. Captain John M. Dow,
after receiving the sad news of Skinner's death, wrote
to his wife (March 30, 1867): "May the mantle of his
energy and enthusiasm for science rest on his friends
who still await the call which he received, to rest from
his labour "
After Skinner's death (Klee had passed away in
1853), Klee's son inherited his business interests in
Guatemala, but had to accept the condition to use
'Skinner' as his second name. He named himself
therefore Jorge Skinner Klee. His son joined both
family names and since that time the family name
Skinner-Klee is common in Guatemala, where
numerous descendants of both partners still live and
carry their combined names (Wagner, 2007: 43).
James Bateman (1811-1897) (Fig. 27) was
undoubtedly the greatest beneficiary from Skinner's
collections. Within ten years of beginning his relation
with Skinner, "Bateman possessed the finest examples
of Guatemalan orchids then available in England"
(Reinikka, 1964: 297). "After several years of enjoying
the orchidaceous bounty sent to him by Skinner,
Bateman conceived the brilliant idea of sharing his
good fortune with the rest of the world... by publishing
a book with the largest illustrations of orchids ever
seen.... The title would be The Orchidaceae of Mexico

19 "In loving memory of George Ure Skinner, EL.S., born in Scotland, who when he had crossed the oceans thirty-nine times and
was about to go to Guatemala, was summoned by a merciful God from the wordly sea to a pleasant haven on the 9th of January
1867. R.I.P. Blessed are the pure in the heart for they shall see God. Thanks be to God." -Translation by Mary Raymond Daniell,
great-granddaughter of Skinner. In Hamilton, 1993.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

and Guatemala" (Hamilton, 1990: 1242-43). "It is
this... eccentric but exquisite study in so gargantuan
a format as to make no more than 125 copies feasible
in the first print run which more than justifies
Bateman's place in the pantheon of orchid pioneers"
(Berliocchi, 2000: 53) (Fig. 28A).
Skinner was the key element in the creation of
Bateman's book, because all the wealth and enthusiasm
of Bateman would have been of little use without
Skinner's plants. Over half of the species illustrated
by Bateman in his monumental work had their origin
in collections by Skinner. "... in fact, the inclusion of
Guatemala in the work must have been due entirely
to the collections of Skinner" (Williams, 1972: 200).
Their friendship was strong, and in 1860 Skinner
took Bateman's eldest son back to Guatemala, to see
the source of his discoveries (Herman, 1976: 59). In
gratitude for his great contributions to botany, Bateman
proposed Skinner as a member of the prestigious
'Linnean Society' in June 1866. The recommendation
was accepted shortly before Skinner's death, on
December 6 of the same year. Bateman was deeply
religious and he strongly believed that hybridization
by man was interfering with the work of God (Rigby,
2000). Lindley named the genus Batemannia in honor
of this great British orchidologist. "His enthusiasm for
orchids remained strong throughout his long life, and
when he died, at eighty-six years of age, on November
27, 1897, the orchid world was irreparably saddened
by the loss of one of his most knowledge and energetic
pioneers" (Reinikka, 1964: 298).
William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865), Skinner's
friend and from 1841 to 1865 Director of the Royal
Botanic Gardens at Kew, described in 1831 a beautiful
terrestrial orchid from Panama as Peristeria elata.
It had been sent in 1826 by Mr. Henry Barnard,
a Peruvian merchant, to Mr. Robert Harrison, of
Liverpool, in whose stove it flowered for the first time
in England in 1831 (Veitch, 1963: 128). This orchid,
known popularly as the 'Holy Ghost Orchid', is today
Panama's National Flower. Although without formal
botanical training, William Hooker became one of
the most influential British botanists of his time. He
had managed a brewery before becoming Professor
of Botany at Glasgow University (1820-1840). After
the death of Banks, Kew Gardens was allowed to sink
20 Bentham, G., 1838-57, Plantae Hartwegianae imprimisMexican

into decline. The appointment of William Hooker
as its Director in 1841 revitalized the gardens and
herbarium... Hooker published tirelessly, particularly
in the journals which he edited, Botanical Miscellany
and The Journal ofBotany. He was succeeded by his
son, Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911).
In a letter to Hooker (1861) Charles Darwin referred
to his passion for orchids: "What frightful trouble you
have taken about Vanilla; you really must not take an
atom more; for the orchids are more play than real
Karl Theodor Hartweg (1812-1871) (Fig. 29A),
German by birth, was one of the first collectors hired by
the Royal Horticultural Society to explore the lands of
Mexico and Central America. He traveled to Mexico in
1836. "The principal object of his journey was to collect
and transmit living specimens or seeds of ornamental
plants and trees; but he also made large collections of
dried plants, the numerous novelties of which were
published by the late Mr. George Bentham [who was
the President of the Royal Society] between 1839 and
1842 under the title Plantae Hartwegianae20". "[He] was
told in his instructions most clearly to confine himself
as much as possible to mountainous districts, where
plants would be found that would not necessarily require
stove treatment" (Cox, 1955: 265). The contract signed
September 21, 1836, between Hartweg and John Lindley
read: "... the greatest object of your mission is to procure
... plants that are likely to be capable of enduring the
open air in England and that these objects will be more
completely attained the more you avoid what is called
the Tierra caliente and keep to the Tierra fria or the
upper limits of the Tierra templada" (Yearsley, 2008: 1).
In Mexico he met Sartorius, in whose estate (El
Mirador) he made important collections. A few months
after his visit there, he met Linden in Chiapas, around
1839-1840. "In a way reminiscent of Stanley's later
encounter with Livingstone in the Congo, the two
explorers met at a bend on the trail leading to Comitan
[...], respectively exclaiming 'Hartweg!' and 'Linden!'
though they had never seen each other before. Their
paths had nearly crossed several times during the
previous few years and each knew the other by
reputation but chance never brought them together.
They were to meet again in Colombia in 1842..."
(Ceulemans etal., 2006: 55).

as ... Grahamianms enumerat novasque describit.

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At the beginning of 1839 he received instructions to
travel to Guatemala and, onLindley's recommendation,
made contact with Skinner. The political situation
in Guatemala was dangerous, and Hartweg wrote to
Skinner asking if it was convenient to undertake the
journey. "In a few days the post passes through here for
Guatemala, when I shall write to Mr. Skinner and ask
his opinion on the subject, as well as the present state of
the country" (letter to the Royal Horticultural Society,
March 19, 1839). In a letter to Hooker in April of the
same year, Skinner relates his answer to Hartweg: "He
asks if he should come on. I write him, 'By all means',
& have given him letters of introduction to every town
on the route & moreover sent him dried specimens of
Orchidaceae that will bring him on in spite of himself."
Hartweg arrived in Guatemala, where he met Skinner
who joined him on many of his collecting trips. "An
intrepid and indefatigable plant hunter, Hartweg
possessed both great good sense and intuition...
earning fame as the collector of the greatest number
of orchid species in the first half of the nineteenth
century" (Berliocchi, 2000: 75).
Among the numerous new species of orchids
discovered by Hartweg during his five years of
exploration in Mexico and Central America one
can mention: Arpophyllum alpinum Hartweg
ex Lindl. (Hartweg s.n., Mexico), Arpophyllum
giganteum Lindl. (Hartweg s.n., Guatemala),
Barkeria spectabilis Batem. ex Lindl. (Hartweg
s.n., Guatemala), Coelia macrostachya Lindl.
(Hartweg s.n, Guatemala), Cranichis apiculata
Lindl. (Hartweg s.n., Guatemala), Cypripedium
molle Lindl. (Hartweg s.n., Mexico), Rhyncholaelia
glauca (Lindl.) Schltr. (Hartweg s.n., Mexico),
Rhynchostele pygmaea (Lindl.) Rchb. f. (Hartweg
568, Guatemala), Sarcoglottis cerina (Lindl.) P. N.
Don (Hartweg s.n., Guatemala), Sarcoglottis rosulata
(Lindl.) P. N. Don (Hartweg s.n., Guatemala), and
Schiedeella trilineata (Lindl.) Burns-Bal. (Hartweg
s.n., Guatemala). However, his collections from
Guatemala seem scanty (only 107 numbers). This
small harvest leads to the speculation that part
of Hartweg's material could have been lost. In
Guatemala's rich flora, 107 numbers could easily be
collected in three or four days. Bentham's account
of Hartweg's collections in Guatemala consists of
only 24 pages (Williams, 1972: 200-201).

On January 1 of 1841 he departed for SouthAmerica
and Jamaica, returning finally in 1843 to England. The
Royal Horticultural Society was so satisfied with his
work that he was sent on a second mission to Mexico
and California. During this final journey he traveled
together with Heller (Anonymous, 1854: 117). Tired
of traveling and after a bitter dispute with the Royal
Horticultural Society regarding his payment, he
returned to Germany in 1848, where he was named
Director of the Gardens of the Great Duke of Baden, in
Schwetzingen. There he died in 1871.
A great number of orchid species were dedicated
to Hartweg, among them: Aa hartwegii Garay,
Anacheilium hartwegii (Lindl.) Pabst, Moutinho &
Pinto, Fernandezia hartwegii (Rchb. f.) Garay & Dunst.,
Oncidium hartwegii Lindl., Pachyphyllum hartwegii
Rchb. f, Paphiopedilum hartwegii (Rchb. f) Pfitzer,
Phragmipedium hartwegii (Rchb. f) L.O. Williams,
Pleurothallis hartwegiaefolia H. Wendl. & Kraenzl.,
Pleurothallis hartwegii Lindl., Prosthechea hartwegii
(Lindl.) W.E. Higgins, and Telipogon hartwegii Rchb.
f Lindley dedicated to him the new genus Hartwegia,
today a synonym ofDomingoa Schltr.
"From the moment of the dissolution of the Federal
Republic of Central America in 1838, the situation
changed dramatically. On one side, Nicaragua became
conscious of her lack of control over the Caribbean
coast and on the other, English policy, now opposed
to the unity of Central America, became more and
more aggressive. Great Britain ended granting the
Mosquitoes a protectorate in 1845, confirming what
had been affirmed some years before, in 1838, when it
was said that this region was in fact English territory.
Not contented with this, on January 1 of 1841, the
superintendent of Belize, Alexander MacDonald,
who competed in aggressiveness and illegitimate
acts with the Charge of Affairs and soon General
Consul of Great Britain in Central America, Frederick
Chatfield, attacked and seized San Juan del Norte.
British supremacy reached its highest point in 1848,
after declaring that San Juan del Norte belonged to the
Mosquito kingdom and renaming it Greytown" (Bell,
1989: 65). "...The Nicaraguans were witnesses, as was
Costa Rica, of the fight among the powers in the region
[...] Although by 1860 the British recognized that the
Atlantic coast was Nicaraguan territory (Treaty of
Managua) they did not withdraw from this area until

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

the Altamirano-Harrison Treaty of 1905. [...] English
pressure on Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador to
secure rights on lands in the proximity of the future
canal and on the sites which would help to defend
it was enormous; they pretended from Nicaragua
the mouth of the San Juan River and the port of San
Juan del Norte; from Honduras the Bay Islands in
the Caribbean and the Island of Tigre in the Gulf of
Fonseca and to have economical control on all three"
(Obreg6n Quesada, 1993: 75).
"[In 1840] ....began a decade of relative tranquility
and colorless governments, during which the most
relevant fact was the arrival in San Jose of the English
seaman William LeLacheur, who harbored in Caldera
to repair his ship and to find cargo, since he had lost
the load of skins that he brought from the north during
a storm. A coffee grower, Nicaraguan of Guatemalan
origin, who had established himself in San Jose, called
Mariano Montealegre, entrusted him his harvest, with
instructions to try to sell it in London, based solely
on LeLacheur's word of honor. The first shipment of
coffee to Europe passed through Chile [...] and then,
via Cape Horn, found its way to London. Over a year
later, the English seaman returned and handed to
Montealegre the hefty product of the sale. The London
market was open" (Cafias, 2000).
The expedition of H.M.S. Sulphur (1836 to 1842),
was the third of a series of voyages organized by
the British Navy for the exploration, mainly for
cartographic purposes of the American Pacific coast
and the islands of the South Pacific. It was commanded
by Sir Edward Belcher (1799-1877) and had been
preceded in 1822 by the H.M.S. Conway and in 1827
by the H.M.S. Blossom at the command of Captain
F. W. Beechey, who explored the Mexican Pacific
coast (San Blas, Mazatlan and Acapulco, with Lay as
naturalist). The botanists of the expedition, Andrew
Sinclair (1796-1861), George Barclay and Richard
B. Hinds (1812-1847), made important collections in
Panama, Nicoya (Costa Rica), El Realejo (Nicaragua)
(Fig. 28B) and the Gulf of Fonseca (Honduras),
whose botanical descriptions where written by George
Bentham. The collections of this expedition are kept in
London (BM), for instance Oncidium ampliatum Lindl.
(Barclay 2769, Costa Rica). Botanical collections were
not the priority for the expedition. The orders of the
Sulphur (Belcher, 1843), read, "Great collections of

natural history cannot be expected, but ... the medical
officers must, undoubtedly, be anxious to contribute
their part to the scientific character of the expedition"
(Jorgensen, 2003).
However, Hinds and Barclay found little to interest
them: "Our visits to the Gulfs of Nicoya and Fonseca
were not productive, indeed the sameness of an
unbroken but dreary and profitless forest was nowhere
more forcibly felt" (Hinds, 1844: 62).
At least five specimens collected by the expedition
of the Sulphur were determined as new species by
Lindley: Epidendrum chinense (Lindl.) Ames (Hinds
s.n. Guatemala), Ornithocephalus bicornis Lindl.
(Sinclair s.n., Panama), .!.,-l l.v*,, fasciculata
Hook. (Sinclair s.n., Nicaragua), Oncidium stipitatum
Lindl. (G.W. Barclay 958, Panama), and Encyclia
trachycarpa (Lindl.) Schltr. Among the collections
by Barclay we find Catasetum 1 ,,iil,,\ Hook.
and Maxillaria acutipetala Hook. with the indication
'Central America, Pacific side'. "Belcher (1843),
Captain during most of the voyage, described the
journey but put little emphasis on the scientific aspects
and hardly mentioned the botanists of the expedition.
The last third of Belcher's second volume (1843) is
an article written by Hinds in which he resumes The
regions of vegetation" (Jorgensen, 2003: 5).
George Bentham (1800-1884) (Fig. 29B) described
the collections of Hartweg in Mexico and Guatemala
in Plantae Hartwegianae (1839-1857) and also
many of the species of the journey around the world
of H.M.S. Sulphur. In Kew, Bentham maintained a
close relationship with Joseph Hooker, son of the
director and also an excellent botanist, with whom he
began the publication of Genera Plantarum, a joint
effort to resume all genera of flowering plants and
gymnosperms. As an author, Bentham probably wrote
more descriptions of plants new to science than any
other person in his day.
Another English collector, William Lobb (1809-
1863), traveled through the Caribbean, Panama and
South America, employed by the firm of Veitch in
Chelsea. Veitch sent Lobb on a collecting expedition
to South America, and he became the first commercial
orchid hunter (Black, 1973: 61). Later, he spent several
months in the neighborhood of Panama and Chagres,
but according to Hemsley, appears to have dried very
few plants (Hemsley, 1887: 134).

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


"The earliest preserved herbarium specimen from
Belize is attributed to the firm of Messrs. Loddiges
of England. The specimen, the type of Polystachya
clavata Lindl. (1842), is preserved at Kew" (Balick et
al., 2000: 5).
The expedition of H.M.S. Herald (1844-1851) was
the fourth of the already mentioned series of voyages
undertaken by the British Navy to explore the coasts
of the American Pacific. Carl Berthold Seemann
(1825-1871) (Fig. 29C), who from his youth had
had the ardent wish to see foreign countries, devoted
much of his time to the study of the natural sciences,
especially botany and anthropology (Anonymous,
1871: 1678). In 1844 he traveled to Kew, to
become a botanist. There he met W. J. Hooker, who
recommended him to succeed Thomas Edmonston,
who had lost his life accidentally in Ecuador. In
this way he came to participate in the expedition,
which explored, among other regions, the isthmus of
Panama and western Mexico. He arrived in Panama
the 22nd of September, 1846 and joined the crew of
the Herald in January of 1847. "Having paid a visit
to Acapulco, and measured some of the volcanoes
of Guatemala, the vessels sailed for Panama, where
they arrived on the 17ih of January, 1847, and were
joined by Mr. Berthold Seemann..." (Seemann,
1852-57: 6). In May Seemann was in Coiba, the
largest island in the Central American Pacific and
later his favorite place for the collection of plants. In
December of the same year he explored the Darien
and in 1848 Chiriqui. He traveled through Mexico in
1848 and 1849. "When in 1848 Berthold Seemann
pointed out that 'the isthmus of Panama, this part
of New Granada that, like a bridge, connects the
two great continents of America, their flora, fauna
and races', he became perhaps the first scientist
to describe Panama as the biological bridge of the
Americas" (Heckadon-Moreno, 1998: 31).
"About this time, Dr. Seemann's scientific labours
attracted the attention of the Imperial German
Academy of Naturalists, and soon after he was made
a member... "(Anonymous, 1871: 1678). A short time
later he was elected Vice-president for life.
He returned to Panama and met von Warscewicz.
Seemann wrote: "We spent several days in Taboga,
the most beautiful island in the bay. A mount rises in
its center of about 1,000 feet of altitude, cultivated

with orchards and vegetables almost to its summit.
Small streams run to the valley where, between palms
and tamarinds, the huts of the natives lie almost
hidden" (Heckadon Moreno, 1988: 27). He returned
to England in 1851, with more than 1,000 specimens
of plants. Between 1852 and 1857, Seemann
published his The Botany of the Voyage of H.M.S.
Herald, a book in four volumes, one of which is the
Flora of the Isthmus ofPanama. It is the first flora of
Central America after Mocifio's Flora de Guatemala
and Beurling's Primitiae florae portobellensis, and
Seemann described there 104 species of orchids.
In 1853 he started the journal Bonplandia, which,
though published in Hannover, he edited in London,
and to which many of the leading botanists of all
nations contributed. In 1865 he returned to Central
America, employed by English interests to explore
and operate gold mines in Nicaragua, where he
started the operations of the mine of El Javali, in
From Nicaragua he traveled frequently to Panama,
and although fully occupied with his business affairs,
he always found time for botanical exploration. At some
point he must have visited Costa Rica, if we believe
Endres, who in 1869 wrote to Captain Dow: "Please do
let me know whether and when Dr. Seemann will return"
(letter to Capt. Dow, November 3, 1869). He dreamed
with going back some day to scientific investigation, but
died in Chontales in October of 1871, at the age of forty-
six, another victim of yellow fever.
Among Seemann's collections are the type
specimens ofPleurothallis perpusilla (Seemann 1565,
Panama) and Masdevallia chontalensis (Seemann 180,
Nicaragua), both described by Reichenbach.
Seemann met in Chontales the English geologist
and naturalist Ralph Tate (1840-1901). "... [Tate] made
a small collection of plants at Chontales... at about the
same date as Seemann, and perhaps in company with
him, for the numbers are often [...] the same in the
two collections" (Hemsley, 1887: 132-133). Among
the collections by Tate are Physurus vaginatus Hook.
and Isochilus linearis R. Br. Dendrobium seemannii,
L. O. Williams, Taeniophyllum seemannii Rchb. f.
and Trigonidium seemannii Rchb. f. were dedicated
to Seemann. The only illustration of Orchidaceae in
Seemann's work is that of Cypripedium hartwegii
Rchb. f. (Fig. 29D).

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

--11 *4L;7

I., rt.

- t ~ -

FIGURE 28. A Vignette by George Cruikshank. From Bateman, 1837-43. B -The Port of El Realejo. In Wells, 1857: 64.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


FIGURE 29. A Karl Theodor Hartweg (1812-1871). Courtesy of Rudolf Jenny. B George Bentham (1800-1884). Courtesy
of Rudolf Jenny. C -Carl Berthold Seemann (1825-1871). From Gardeners' Chron., 1871. Courtesy of the Hunt Institute
for Botanical Documentation. D -Cypripedium hartwegii Rchb. f. In Seemann, 1852-57: pl. XLIV

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

The German-Belgian connection

"To the (c ..'i ..... 11 .,, -. -fforces, to the influence
of inanimate creation on the animated world of
animals and plants, to this harmony will I always
turn my eyes ".
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859),
in the journal of his voyage to America,
June 15'h, 1799

The botanical explorations of Cuming, Skinner,
Hartweg, Hinds and Seemann originated in the spirit
of imperialist expansion which characterized the
Victorian era. Cuming and Skinner were true examples
of the English attempts to dominate world trade.
Hartweg was one of many instruments used by the
English upper classes to satisfy their enthusiasm for
orchids as decorative subjects and Hinds and Seemann
represented the scientific interests of a Great Britain
that had achieved complete control of the oceans.
A current of 'liberalism' developed in the rest
of Europe after 1830 that intellectually defended
freedom of thought and praised technology and the
natural sciences. The liberals inherited the ideals of
Enlightenment and the French Revolution and where
therefore often subject to a fierce political repression.
It was so that a very different group of European
adventurers, naturalists and scientists began arriving in
Central America shortly after independence. They were
individuals whose countries of origin had no practical
interest in the new republics: merchants, scientists and
political expatriates who in only a few years made great
contributions to the knowledge of the orchids in Central
America. With their English colleagues they had in
common their 'Orchidomania', both in the horticultural
and the scientific meaning of the word. Why did
Germany, and above all Belgium contribute with so
many illustrious names to the history of orchidology
during the first half of the XIX century? For Germany
the answer lies perhaps in a long botanical tradition
and the influence of Humboldt on the romantic-liberal
movement of the epoch. In the case of the Belgians, it
may have been the nationalistic euphoria after the birth
of Belgium as an independent nation.
Let us remember that, as a result of the Congress
of Vienna, the Prince of Orange had been proclaimed
King of the United Low Countries in 1815. In 1830, the
French speaking regions of the Low Countries gained

their independence, forming the Kingdom of Belgium.
King Leopold I ascended to the Belgian throne in July,
William Bullock (ca. 1773-1849) was en English
traveler, naturalist and antiquarian. Bullock began as a
goldsmith and jeweler in Sheefiled. He used his wealth
to accumulate a large collection of artifacts, antiquities
and stuffed animals. In the late 1790s Bullock founded
a Museum of Natural Curiosities in the city, which
moved to Liverpool in 1801. In 1808 he published
a descriptive catalogue of the works of art, armory,
objects of natural history, and other curiosities in the
collection, some of which had been brought back
by members of James Cook's expeditions. In 1809,
Bullock moved to London and the collection was
housed in the newly built Piccadilly Egyptian Hall.
The collection, which included over 32,000 items, was
disposed of by auction in 1819.In 1822, Bullock went
to Mexico [becoming so the first European to set foot in
this country after Thomas Gage in 1625] and brought
back many artifacts and specimens which in 1824
formed a new exhibition in the Egyptian Hall, entitled
Ancient and modern Mexico. This exhibition was the
first exhibit in Europe of Mexico's natural history and
ancient culture after the country's independence from
Spain. Included among the curiosities exhibited by
Bullock were a few birds mounted on artificial palms
and cacti, and picturesquely arranged around them
some Mexican mammals (Stresemann, 1954: 86).
A second visit to Mexico, and to the USA, took place
in 1827. Bullock's publications include A concise and
easy method of preserving subjects of natural history
(1817), Six months residence and travels in Mexico
(1824), and Sketch of a journey through the western
states of North America (1827).
"In Germany, the news of mysterious Mexico
having become accessible even to the ordinary traveler
excited the curiosity of a wealthy nobleman, the Count
of Sack, chamberlain to the King of Prussia. He had
recently returned from a voyage to Egypt and Cyprus
where he had made a small collection of birds and he at
once felt inclined to visit Mexico, provided that there
was a collecting naturalist of good reputation to go with
him. A gardener [...] by the name of Ferdinand Deppe,
was recommended for this task by Professor Hinrich
Lichtenstein, director of the Zoological Museum of
Berlin University (Streseman, 1954: 86).

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It was so that Ferdinand Deppe (1794-1861) came
to Mexico for the first time in 1824, in the company
of the Count von Sack. However, as soon as they
reached Mexico, the difficult character of the Count
made Deppe go his own way, beginning a series of
travels through the country, collecting birds for the
Zoological Museum and plants for the Botanical
Garden of Berlin. In 1828 he traveled to Mexico again,
this time in the company of doctor Christian Julius
Wilhelm Schiede (1789-1836), who was a physician
and a passionate botanist. "They expected to make a
living in Mexico by selling zoological and botanical
specimens to European Museums and dealers. [...] But
they were soon disappointed [...] and although part of
the material which the two friends had collected up to
May 7, 1829, had been acquired by the museums of
Berlin and Vienna, the financial result of their efforts
was far from what they had expected" (Streseman,
1954: 88). Both were guests of Sartorius and explored
in depth the environs of El Mirador and the states of
Veracruz and Tabasco. Deppe had collected earlier
in Guatemala, although no collections by him in this
country have been identified.
Despite the short time they spent in Mexico, Deppe
and Schiede discovered a great number of new orchid
species. Worthy of mention are: Gongora galeata
(Lindl.) Rchb. f (Deppe s.n ), Lycaste deppei (Lodd.)
Lindl. (Deppe s.n), Stanhopea oculata (Lodd.) Lindl.
(Deppe s.n.), Vanilla pompona Schiede (Schiede &
Deppe s.n.), Vanilla sativa Schiede (Schiede & Deppe
s.n.), Vanilla sylvestris Schiede (Schiede & Deppe s.n.),
Isochilus major Schltdl. & Cham. (Schiede & Deppe
1046), Vanilla pompona Schiede (Schiede 1043),
Campylocentrum schiedei (Rchb. f.) Benth. & Hemsl.
(Schiede s.n.), Dichaea neglecta Schltr. (Schiede
1053), Pleurothallis schiedei Rchb. f. (Schiede, W
25687), and Lepanthes schiedei Rchb. f. (Schiede s.n.)
Many species were dedicated to them and Schiede
was honored with a new genus created by Schlechter:
Schiedeella (Fig. 30A). Aside from their botanical
interests, Deppe and Schiede were important
contributors to the study of Mexican fauna and
collaborated with the German zoologist Wiegmann,
an important investigator of tropical amphibians and
reptiles. Schiede made also interesting observations on
general aspects of the vegetation in the regions which
21 Lavater was Swiss consul in Mexico from 1827 to 1832.

he visited (Schiede, 1829-1830). While Deppe returned
to Germany in 1829, Schiede settled in Mexico, where
he died in 1836, a victim of typhus.
Carl Christian Sartorius (1796-1872) was a German
traveler who arrived in the region of Veracruz shortly
after the independence of Mexico. Son of a protestant
priest, he had been in jail and had lost his position as a
teacher in Germany for political reasons, and decided
to emigrate to Mexico. The majority of the Spanish
residents in the region of Veracruz had emigrated to
Cuba after Mexico's independence and so Sartorius,
in company with the Swiss Carl Lavater21, was able
to purchase in 1826 a large part of the 'Hacienda
Amaz6nica', an estate that had been the property of
Francisco Arrillaga, with a total area of 12,000 acres.
Sartorius established his residence in a place called
'Paso de los Monos' (= 'pass of the monkeys') which
he called 'El Mirador' ( 'the look-out point'). El
Mirador soon became a place of refuge for all naturalists
who visited the area and is perhaps the most frequently
cited Mexican locality of collection during the whole
XIX century. Sartorius' political ideals were soon put
into practice in Mexico. His "ideal city", as he called
her, was to be a German city. He built a community
house, a library, and rooms for research and teaching.
He publicized his project in Germany and, in 1833,
the first group of settlers came to Mexico. After one
year, 45 settlers lived in Sartorius 'Monte Libre' (
free mountain '). But the conditions were very harsh
and Sartorius' was soon left alone with his plans. A
passionate botanist and generous host, Sartorius
took into his house many of the travelers, especially
Germans, who explored the Mexican Southeast
during a good part of the century. Among them were
Karwinski, Schiede, Deppe, Hartweg, Heller, Galeotti,
Leibold, Linden, Liebmann and Purpus. Many of them,
like Sartorius, had left Europe for political reasons.
Florentin, Sartorius' son, continued his father's
tradition. El Mirador was a meeting place for
naturalists and botanists until the first years of the
XX century. Sartorius herbarium is now at the
Smithsonian Institution and contains specimens
collected mainly at El Mirador, among which we can
find Epidendrum viridipurpureum Lindl., Pleurothallis
tenuissima Rchb. f, Lepanthes pristidis Rchb. f,
Epidendrum cochleatum L., Epidendrum polybulbon

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

Sw. and Maxillaria variabilis Batem. A list of species
collected by Sartorius was published by Reichenbach
in 1856 under the name of Orchideae Mirandolanae
(mexicanae) Sartorianae (Reichenbach, 1856). We
remember El Mirador in Cyclopogon miradorensis
Schltr., whose description is based on a collection by J.
A. Purpus In 1922 (J. A. Purpus 92, El Mirador). It is
said that during his short stay in Mexico (1864-1867),
the unfortunate Maximillian of Hapsburg bought an
estate called 'Jalapilla', adjacent to 'El Mirador', with
the purpose of enlarging his collections of plants and
butterflies and also to chat and exchange scientific
information with his neighbor. Maximillian had little
time to enjoy the beauties of Mexican nature. He died
in 1867, executed by the troops of Benito Juarez.
An interesting book about Mexico, Mexico als
Ziel fir Deutsche Auswanderer, was published by
Sartorius in 1850. An English translation, Mexico
and the Mexicans, was published in London in 1859.
In this book (version of 1975), Sartorius writes
about the tropical forests: "Each tree is covered by
countless plants, from fungi in the roots to orchids in
its branches" (Sartorius, 1975: 15) (Fig. 30B). Johann
Moritz Rugendas (1802-1858), famous romantic
German painter, was a friend of Sartorius and spend
three years at El Mirador. The London edition (1859)
of Sartorius' book was beautifully illustrated with
engravings based on Rugendas paintings during his
stay in Mexico (Fig. 30C).
Although bor in Hungary, Wilhelm Friedrich
Freiherr von Karwinski von Karwin (1780-1855)
came to Mexico in 1827 supported by the "Deutsch-
Amerikanischer Bergwerksverein zu Elberfeld" (
'German-American Mining Company ofElberfeld) to
explore the possibilities of securing mining concessions
in the country but also moved by his botanical interests.
"Karwinski was educated in Vienna and had become a
mining engineer of some distinction. After working more
than a decade in Spain he inherited some property in
Bavaria and moved there in 1815. He became interested
in traveling to America, and after unsuccessful attempts
to associate himself with the Brazilian expeditions
of Martius... he visited Brazil, apparently at his own
expense, in 1821-23" (McVaugh, 1980: 141). Of
interest for our study are Karwinski's collections near
Oaxaca and Tehuantepec during his first trip to Mexico
(1827-1832) where he collected, among others, the type

of Habenaria clypeata Lindl. and Mormodes pardina
Batem. The botanical specimens from Karwinki's
first trip to Mexico went to the Botanical Garden in
Munich. "Karwinski's second trip to Mexico (1841-
1843) was undertaken when he was 60 years old, under
the auspices of five different sponsors in St. Petersburg
(now Leningrad). By the term of this agreement he was
to look for plants and animals, and also, primarily, to
search for minerals in commercial deposits. His trip
was very successful, botanically speaking. He brought
back more than 2000 gatherings..." (McVaugh, 1980:
144). The specimens from this trip are mostly in
Leningrad. Some of his collections of Orchidaceae
where Cranichis tubulosa Lindl. and Isochilus cernuus
Lindl.. Reichenbach dedicated to him his Epidendrum
karwinski Rchb. f, today a synonym of Prosthechea
bicamerata (Rchb. f.) W.E. Higgins, from a specimen
collected by Karwinski in Teoxomulco, Oaxaca.
Lindley named in his honor his Cyrtochilum karwinski
and Martius his Cattleya karwinski.
His main explorations during this trip where in the
northern lowlands of Veracruz, where, during a few
months, he traveled together with the Danish botanist
F. M. Liebmann. As Liebmann wrote on February 21st,
1841: "Mexico's present situation makes it to a certain
extent advisable with combined strengths to brave
the dangers with which a completely demoralized
population, anarchy and lawlessness will each day
confront us..." (McVaugh, 1980: 146).
The exploratory activities of a surprising group
of botanists and collectors from a small country that
had gained its political independence only a few years
earlier, began with the arrival in our region of Henri
Guillaume Galeotti (1814-1858), a native of Versailles
but sponsored by the Vandermaelen brothers, Belgian
nurserymen. "The two brothers, both passionately
interested in cartography and the natural sciences,
were particularly sensitive to the echoes of the voyages
of von Humboldt. [...] Later, from 1835 to 1840, the
Vandermalen brothers would finance the expedition of
botanist and geologist Henri Galetotti..." (Ceulemans
et al., 2006: 24).
Galeotti had been born in Paris, from an Italian father
and a French mother, and followed his father when he
established himself in Brussels. In 1843 he obtained
the Belgian citizenship (Touret & Visser, 2004: 84). In
1835 Galeotti left Hamburg for Mexico, where he spent

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August2009. 0 Unversidad de Costa Rca, 2009.


five years, collecting mainly in Veracruz, Mexico and
Oaxaca. Like many others, he was a guest of Sartorius
in El Mirador. He established botanical stations both
there and in Zacualpan. In 1838 he climbed Mount
Orizaba in the company of Ghiesbreght, Funck and
Linden (Galeotti, 1861: 271-73). Galeotti's herbarium
was estimated at 7,000 to 8,000 specimens, containing
many new species, that were later described by himself
in conjunction with the French botanist Achille
Richard. In May of 1836 he wrote from Mexico: "I have
gathered already a great number of vegetables, many of
which still lack a scientific denomination; they will fill
the greenhouses from Messieurs Vandermaelen with
infinity of beautiful and curious plants" (Diagre, 2004:
36). After his return to Belgium in 1840, Galeotti was
elected correspondent of the recently founded 'Societe
Royale d'Horticulture de Belgique', a position he held
until his death in 1858 (Quetelet, 1859:143). "[Galeotti]
trusted the description of the orchids to Achille Richard,
the cacti to Lemaire, the Gramineans to Trinius and the
ferns to Martens" (Crepin, 1800-1883: 434) (Fig. 31A).
His herbarium was acquired by the Society and remains
in Brussels. "[...] He went into business in Schaerbeck,
but his efforts failed in the wake of the economic crisis
of 1848; he appears to have possessed little commercial
acumen" (Ceulemans et al., 2006: 55).
Some of the species of Orchidaceae collected by
Galeotti in Mexico are: Barkeria melanocaulon A.
Rich. & Gal. (Galeotti 5069), Bletia adenocarpa
Rchb. f. (Galeotti 5345), Cyclopogon luteo-albus
(A. Rich. & Gal.) Schltr. (Galeotti s.n.), Cyclopogon
saccatus A. Rich. & Gal. (Galeotti 9124), Epidendrum
galeottianum A. Rich. & Gal. (Galeotti 5194),
Epidendrum longipetalum A. Rich. & Gal. (Galeotti
5238), Epidendrum propinquum A. Rich. & Gal.
(Galeotti 5265), Masdevallia galeottiana A. Rich. &
Gal. (Galeotti 5075), Pleurothallis violacea A. Rich &
Gal. (Galeotti s.n.), Prosthechea chondylobulbon (A.
Rich. & Gal.) W. E. Higgins (Galeotti s.n.), Schiedeella
violacea (A. Rich. & Gal.) Garay (Galeotti 5120).
Two orchid genera were named in honor of Galeotti:
Galeottia (Fig. 31B) by his friend and colleague
Richard and Galeottiella by Rudolf Schlechter.
Achille Richard (1794-1852) (Fig. 31C) had studied
medicine but his interests inclined soon towards
Botany, and he became one of the most important
botanists of his time. In 1819 he published the first

edition of his Elements de Botanique. The Orchidaceae
were his favorite family, and his first important work
in systematic botany was the Monographie des
Orchidees des miles de France et de Bourbon, in 1828.
When Galeotti returned from Mexico in 1841, Richard
took charge of the study and description of the new
species of Orchidaceae planning to publish, together
with the former, a monograph of the Mexican species
of this family. The first part was published in 1845.
Richard's death in 1852 and financial problems made
the publication of the rest of this monograph an
impossible task (Veyret, 1997: 17).
The Austrian Carl Bartholomfius Heller (1824-
1880), professor at the famous 'Theresianum'
academy in Vienna, left England on October 2, 1845
in the company of Hartweg (Anonymous, 1854: 117),
and collected in Mexico between 1845 and 1848,
becoming one of the many guests of Sartorius at El
Mirador. In 1846 he sent 14 boxes of orchids to Vienna
(Anonymous, 1846: 216). Among his collections we
can find the types of Govenia deliciosa Rchb. f. (Heller,
El Mirador, W-Rchb. 42259), Mormolyca lineolata
Fenzl. (Heller s.n., El Mirador) and Epidendrum helleri
Fenzl. ex Hemsl. (Heller s.n). Heller's accounts of his
travels through Mexico are of great interest, especially
the phytogeographical description of the region around
the Orizaba volcano (Heller, 1847). Before traveling to
Mexico with Hartweg, Heller had tried to organize an
expedition on his own, for which he had chosen young
Benedikt Roezl as his assistant, but the project failed
due to the lack of financing (Block, 1985: 1201-1202).
A native of Luxembourg, Jean Jules Linden (1817-
1898) (Fig. 31D) moved as a young man to Belgium,
where he became one of the first students of the
recently founded University of Brussels. At the age of
nineteen he was entrusted by the Belgian government
(at the suggestion of Barthelemi Du Mortier, botanist
and man of state) with his first scientific mission that
would take him to South America (Linden, 1894: 117).
Between 1835 and 1837, he explored the Brazilian
provinces of Rio de Janeiro, Spiritu-Santo, Minas
Gerais and Sao Paulo. "Unlike many plant hunters
who went to work purely for commercial reasons, Jean
Linden had a botanical interest in many species, not
just the orchid. It is thanks to him that we have so many
varieties of fern, palm, begonia, bromeliad, and so on"
(Ceulemans et al., 2006: 7).

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

His second expedition, in the company of his
countrymen Funck and Ghiesbreght (who took part as
a zoologist), departed for Havana in October of 1837
and went on to Mexico, resting at El Mirador of Carl
Sartorius. Here he met Galeotti, who had arrived in
Mexico three years earlier. They proceeded to the east:
"Linden first went to Yucatan, and thence to the States
of Chiapas and Tabasco; visiting and exploring the
districts of Ciudad Real, Cacate, San Bartolo Titotoli,
Santiago de Tabasco, Teapa, Puyapatengo, etc. where
he formed by far the largest collection we have seen
from those parts of Mexico" (Hemsley, 1887: 126). He
continued from there to northern Guatemala returning
then to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. "In 1839-40,
a disaster threw the smooth running of the expedition
into turmoil. Jean Linden fell seriously ill, stricken by
a violent attack of the v6mito negro, which Europeans
call yellow fever. [...] A natural haemorrhage saved his
life, but it took a painful three-month recovery before
he could return to his collecting" (Ceulemans et al.,
2006: 57). Funck and Ghiesbreght re-embarked for
Brussels in September 1840. Linden was left on the
American continent and eventually returned home via
Havana and the United States.
A third and last expedition, between 1841 and 1844,
would take him to Venezuela and Colombia (where he
would meet again with Hartweg), in the company of
Joseph Schlim and Funck. "No later than October 1845
- he had been home barely 11 months he entrusted
his old traveling companions, Nicholas Funck and
Louis-Joseph Schlim, with a mission to Venezuela and
"[...] Linden did not leap blindly into the horticultural
trade but viewed his careers as a long-term proposition.
He began with an audacious and clever stroke that
proved vital in bringing himself to public attention. He
wrote to eminent English botanist, John Lindley, asking
him to draw up a scientific description of the orchids
discovered on his recent travels. [Lindley] accepted
Linden's proposal and began his work of taxonomy
which resulted in the publication of Orchidaceae
Lindenianae, or Notes upon a collection of Orchids
Formed in Colombia and Cuba by Mr. J. Linden
(Lindley, 1846). [...] Linden's maneuver was brilliant.
[...] This scientific recognition gained him entrance
to the world of professional botanists as well as
winning the confidence of growers and orchid lovers"

(Ceulemans et al., 2006: 105-106). After starting
business in Luxembourg, he established himself in
Brussels in 1851, where he found greater possibilities
to commercialize his plants and where he found clients
who where willing to pay considerable sums for new
species, especially orchids. From 1851 to 1861 he was
the director of the Royal Zoological and Botanical
Gardens at Leopold Park in Brussels. In addition to
the great number of species he introduced into Europe,
Linden had the merit of studying closely the conditions
in which the orchids grew in nature and to adapt the
cultural methods in Europe to these conditions, thus
creating in his greenhouses 'real' microclimates for
the plants he imported. Linden, who maintained close
relations with English horticulturists, quickly adopted
the new techniques of the Industrial Revolution and
built greenhouses of gigantic proportions in Ghent and
Brussels, becoming soon the favorite supplier of the
members of the upper classes. Among his clients he
even counted the Czar of Russia.
The Linden name is associated with a number
of important publications: L'Illustration horticole
(1854-1896), and above all Pescatorea (1860) and
Lindenia (1885-1906), continued by his son Lucien),
commonly ranked amongst the most magnificent
and outstanding works in orchid literature. Some
of the species the types of which were collected by
Linden and deserve to be mentioned are: Brachystele
minrititlorat (A. Rich. & Gal.) Bums-Bal. (Linden
1237), Gongora truncata Lindl. (Linden s.n.), Notylia
orbicularis A. Rich. & Gal. (Linden 216), Oncidium
lindenii Brongn. (Linden s.n.), Prosthechea panthera
(Rchb. f.) W. E. Higgins (Linden 1236), Sarcoglottis
corymbosa Garay (Linden 1232), Stelis ciliaris Lindl.
(Linden 203), and Stelis purpurascens A. Rich. &
Gal. (Linden 211).
Linden had an enormous influence on European
orchidology during the last two thirds of the XIX
century. His nurseries, managed by his son Lucien
after his death, survived until World War I. "It can be
said of Jean Linden that, in addition to his scientific
merits, he also had outstanding commercial talents.
In him, moreover, scientific discipline, a feeling for
new discoveries, a love for botanical science and an
aesthetic sense were harmoniously combined. It is
these qualities that have made Linden an important
historical figure" (Ceulemans et al., 2006: 7).

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Unversidad de Costa Rca, 2009.


The Belgian Auguste Boniface Ghiesbreght (1819-
1893) and the Luxembourgian Nicholas Funck (1816-
1896) explored Mexico (especially the states Tabasco
and Chiapas) together with Linden. While Funck later
joined Linden in his third expedition to South America,
Ghiesbreght returned to Mexico in 1840, where
he formed important collections. "He introduced
many fine plants to the nurseries of Van Houtten and
Verschaffelt" (Anonymous, 1893: 634). Ghiesbreght
had been hired as the zoologist of the expedition, and
in 1842 sold insects to the Paris Museum, for 30 francs
per hundred specimens (Papavero & Ibafiez-Bamal,
2001: 83). During the years of 1850-1855 he made
his third voyage to Mexico and his second to Chiapas,
forgetting the dangers he had encountered before and
which had almost cost him his life. He died in Mexico,
at San Cristobal de las Casas, in February of 1893
(Anonymous, 1893: 634). Ghiesbreght was perhaps
the botanist with the greatest knowledge of the flora of
northern Mesoamerica during the first half of the XIX
century. Although his collections were primarily of
plants from other families, he discovered an important
number of new species of Orchidaceae that were
described by Richard and Galeotti in the Annales des
sciences naturelles, a journal whose publication had
begun some years earlier in Paris, edited by Adolphe
Theodore Brongniart. Ghiesbreght would become
Linden's lifelong friend and collaborator. "Captivated
by the novelties of a tropical flora, his earliest and latest
field of research, and apparently his favorite one, was
the south-eastern-most part of Mexico, comprising the
states of Tabasco and Chiapas" (Anonymous, 1889:
Funck (Fig. 32A), who was Linden's favorite
illustrator, also made important contributions to the
knowledge of the orchids of Central America. "He is
[...] inextricably linked with the life of Jean Linden. [...]
His name is also to be found amongst the administrators
of the Linden companies [...] The friendship between
the two men was further strengthened when Funck
and Linden married two Luxembourg sisters,
Catherine and Anna Reuter, on 9 April 1849 and 13
October 1845 respectively" (Ceulemans et al., 2006:
27). Among the types collected by Ghiesbreght
and Funck, or dedicated to them, are the following:
Brachystele sarcoglossa (A. Rich. & Gal.) Bums-
Bal. (Ghiesbreght s.n.), Calanthe calanthoides (A.

Rich. & Gal.) Hamer & Garay (Ghiesbreght s.n.) (Fig.
32B), Encyclia ghiesbreghtiana (A. Rich. & Gal.)
Dressler (Ghiesbreght 6, Oncidium ghiesbreghtianum
A. Rich. & Gal. (Ghiesbreght W 27024), Spiranthes
cinnabarinus Hemsl. (Ghiesbreght s.n.), Epidendrum
funckianum A. Rich. & Gal. (Funck s.n), and Pelexia
funckiana (A. Rich. & Galeotti) Schltr. (H. Galeotti
5171). Richard and Galeotti dedicated the genus
C(rli,, /,,,ln.,i and Schlechter the genus Funckiella to
these two great Belgian botanists.
The German Friedrich Ernst Leibold (1804-1864)
arrived in Mexico in 1839. As one of many guests
of Sartorius, he collected mainly in Zacuapan, in the
neighborhood of El Mirador. Reichenbach named after
him Leochilus leiboldi and Hemsley mentions many of
his collections, such as: Epidendrum seriatum Lindl.,
Sobralia macrantha Lindl., Govenia mutica Rchb. f,
Maxillaria pumila Hook. and the types of Brassavola
(=Homalopetalum) pumilio Rchb. f. and Lepanthes
pristidis Rchb. f. Reichenbach described many of the
species collected by Leibold in Klotzsch's i ,.
zu einer t c iquiiinc tirilttl("i iL ,rika '"(1849).
Emmanuel Ritter von Friedrichsthal (1809-1842)
was born in Bohemia and in 1839 traveled through
Nicaragua and Costa Rica, continuing to Panama,
Guatemala and Yucatan. "He disembarked in San
Juan del Norte, in Nicaragua, at the beginning of
1839, having been before in the Antilles, and after
exploring the Pacific coast of the other Central
American countries, arrived in Costa Rica, possibly
via Puntarenas" (Leon, 2002: 132). Friedrichsthal drew
maps, took barometric measurements, investigated the
conditions of the natural history and ethnography and
sent reports to his government about the technology,
industry and commerce of the countries he visited
(Wurzbach, 1858: 360). "He botanized extensively
in Costa Rica between 1839 and 1842, along the Rio
San Juan and from Guanacaste to Cartago" (Grayum
et al, 2004: 2). However, all of his collections at Kew
are labeled 'Guatemala'. Friedrichsthal, like many
others before him, applied the name Guatemala to
Central America as a whole, probably keeping with
the customs of colonial times of calling the region
'Captaincy General of Guatemala' or 'Kingdom of
Guatemala'. The confusion is clear in the description
of one of the new species of Orchidaceae known from
Friedrichsthal's collections: Maxillariafriedrichsthallii

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America





FIGURE 30. A -Schieedella cobanensis Schltr. Drawing by R. Schlechter. In Schlechter,1931, plate 9, illustration 35.
B Frontispiece of Sartorius' work, Mexico and the Mexicans, 1850. C J. M. Rugendas: The Mirador looking towards
the Gulf. In Sartorius, 1975: 8.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


Odut~dMI~Na Aa~CY v~.A'


FIGURE 31. A -Odontoglossum caerulescens A. Rich & Gal. A drawing by Galeotti with the determination by Richard. In
Veyret, 1997: 16. B -Galeottia grainiithi,ra A. Rich. & Gal. Illustration by A. Goosens in Cogniaux & Goosens, 1896-
1907. C Achille Richard (1794-1852). In Veyret, 1997: 5. D Jean Jules Linden (1817-1898). From Gardeners'
Chronicle, courtesy of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation.

LANKESTERIANA9( -2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.

OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America




FIGURE 32. A Nicholas Funck (1816-1896). Courtesy of Rudolf Jenny. B Calanthe calanthoides (A. Rich. & Gal.) Hamer
& Garay. Illustration by Pilar Casasa. C -Maxillariafriedrichsthalii Rchb.f. Illustration by Blanche Ames, courtesy of the
Oakes Ames Orchid Herbarium, Harvard University. D -Josef Ritter von Rawiez Warscewicz (1812-1866). Courtesy of
the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


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FIGURE 33. A -Map of the Belgian colony in Santo Tomas, Guatemala. In Wagner, 2001: 42. B -Warczewiczella discolor
Rchb.f. Xenia Orchidaceal, Plate 93. C Michael Frederik Liebmann (1813-1856). Courtesy of the Botanical Garden &
Museum, Copenhagen.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.

OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

Rchb. f, (Friedrichsthal, AMES 25856) (Fig. 32C). In
Reichenbach's description, the locality of collection is
referred to as: Guatemala, Chontales, in Monte Aragua,
although it is well known that Chontales is in Nicaragua.
Other collections by Friedrichsthal include the type of
Ornithocephalus inflexus Lindl. (Guatemala, am Fluss
Torre), Gongora quinquenervis Ruiz y Pav. (Guatemala,
San Juan River (!)) and Schomburgkia tibicinis Batem.
(Rio de Mico, Peten). "Friedrichsthal is considered one
of the pioneers of expedition photography. Already
in the year after Daguerre's technique was publicized
[1837], he employed this new technique to depict Maya
ruins. In 1840, he was the first European to describe
Chichen Itza".
He must have met Skinner, who in one of his letters
to Alexander Mac Donald in Belize asks: "Did le
Chevalier Frederickstal [sic] find much up the river?"
(Letter from Skinner to Mac Donald, Feb. 26'h, 1841).
It was, by the way, Mac Donald's wife who introduced
from Belize into England the type specimen of
Brassavola (=Rhyncholaelia) digbyana Lindl., today
the national flower of Honduras22. A different version
states that the plant was sent by Governor Digby, and
named in honor of his kinsman, Lord Digby; it had been
collected by employees of Messrs. Brown, Ponder, and
Co., of Belize, who dealt in mahagony and logwood
(Boyle, 1901: 151). A large part of his collection and
equipment was stolen during a robbery in the province
of Yucatan, at the southern end of the peninsula of the
same name. At the end of October 1841 he reached
Vienna, badly suffering from the serious illness he had
caught in Latin America and that was to lead to his
death a few months later.
"Last Monday George brought here a Pole a great
traveller & one of the first botanists in the world. His
name is Warscewicz.... He talks a mixture of Spanish
and Polish, & wears a beard, in fact, is all hair, from
his nose downwards!". Mrs. Skinner, in a letter to her
friend Juliana Raymond dated April 15, 1850, described
with these words her first encounter with Josef Ritter
von Rawiez Warscewicz (1812-1866) (Fig. 32D).
Warscewicz was bor in Lithuania, of Polish ancestors,
mostly military (Lickel, 1982: 125), and "received his
initial training in Botany at Rumzill's [really Jundzill]
Botanical Gardens in Poland [actually in Vilnius,

Lithuania] and at the Berlin Botanic Gardens, and then
joined a Belgian contingent of settlers [in Guatemala]
in 1845 to collect plants for the nurseryman Van Houtte
of Ghent, Belgium" (Milligan & Banks, 1999: 22).
Van Houtte owned a large garden in Santo Tomas, now
Matias de Galvez, Guatemala (Savage, 1970: 275). The
colonization program in Santo Tomas had started in 1834,
when the Guatemalan Congress passed a law promoting
the development of the Departments of Verapaz,
Livinston and Santo Tomas. Colonization began in 1836
by the British 'Commercial and Agricultural Company
of the Eastern Coast of Central America' but in 1841 the
British interests were sold to the Belgian Colonization
Company (Wagner, 2007: 17-22) (Fig. 33A).
But the new Belgian colony in Santo Tomas,
Guatemala, was a complete failure. "They sold him
the idea that he would find a prosperous town full of
rich settlers. When he arrived, in February of 1845,
Warscewicz found that instead of the promised city
there was only a hamlet of straw huts. Instead of
rich and active settlers he found immigrants so sick
that they looked like corpses raised from the dead.
From the 32 healthy and strong individuals who
arrived with Warscewicz from Europe to join the
colony, only our botanist and the group's physician
survived" (Heckadon-Moreno, 1998 62). The Belgian
Colony was officially dissolved by the Guatemalan
government in 1853 (Wagner, 2007: 33). Thanks
to Humboldt's recommendation [Humboldt had
previously recommended him to the Botanical Garden
in Hamburg], Warscewicz initiated correspondence
with Skinner, with whom he did not start off well,
possibly because they did not meet personally until
1850 (Skinner was at the time in England). "I have
had enough of him... (Letter from Skinner to Hooker,
15.09.1846)". "...And I am disgusted with Warscewicz
and almost feel inclined to have nothing more to do with
him" (Letter from Skinner to Hooker, 15.12.1846). But
the relations would improve, until Skinner became an
admirer of the extravagant Pole.
"From Guatemala, Warscewicz traveled to El
Salvador, where, due to extensive deforestation,
he found only few plants. He went on to Nicaragua
and met there Dr. Oersted, who informed him of the
best regions for botanical exploration. Together they

22 The name honors Edward St. Vincent Digby, an orchid grower from Mintere, Dorsetshire, who first received the plant from
Mrs. Mac Donald.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


explored the forests of Nueva Segovia, collecting
2,000 specimens of orchids". His next destination was
Costa Rica, where he arrived in 1848 and then Panama,
collecting later in several countries of South America.
From a letter from Warscewicz dated March 15,
1848 (unknown recipient) we can see how difficult
his travels were and understand the hardships he
went through: "My journey by land (500 leagues)
from Guatemala to Costa Rica was very hard; hunger,
thirst and other contrarieties bothered me all the time;
only the wonderful and exuberant vegetation helped
me endure so critical a situation; this vegetation was
my constant companion along the way [...] Presently
I am traveling to Panama and Veraguas... I need
money to travel and collect with profit I have been
waiting for it in vain for already a long time, since
what I received from my friends and sympathizers in
Germany in exchange for the considerable shipment
of seeds, plants and orchids which I sent last year
from Guatemala was barely enough to ship the plants
and return the expenses" (Mendez & Monge-Najera,
2003: 205). In 1850 he passed again through Costa
Rica and Panama, returning to Europe after a bad
attack of yellow fever. There he finally met Skinner,
who took him into his house because of Warscewicz's
ruinous financial situation ("poor fellow, I am afraid
he will find it difficult to recover his expenses"; Letter
from Skinner to Hooker, 03.04.1850). After he met
him, Skinner wrote enthusiastically to Lord Derby:
"He is strong as iron in constitution, fearless as a
lion of dangers & enthusiastic beyond description"
He spent several months in Berlin as assistant
to Reichenbach, describing over 300 species of
orchids. In those days he published a list of orchids
brought by him from Central America, which he
offered for sale (Warscewicz, 1850). Not used to
sedentary work, he embarked for America again in
1851 and passed a last time through Panama. At the
end of the year he was in Guayaquil, where he was
robbed and lost his money and equipment, returning
finally to Europe in 1853 (Anonymous, 1854a: 96).
He was offered the position of supervisor at the
Botanical Gardens of Krakow that he held until his
death in 1866. "Together with the director Ignacy
Rafel Czerwiakowski he published Catalogus
Plantarum (Cracoviae 1864), listing 8,911 taxa

cultivated in the garden, including some 300 species
of Orchidaceae" (Yearsley, 2004: 159).
It was undoubtedly in Costa Rica and Panama
where he collected the greatest number of orchids. In
Costa Rica he explored chiefly the central region of the
country and climbed the Barba and Irazu volcanoes.
In Panama, his favorite collecting sites where the
highlands of Chiriqui, which he came to consider as
an orchidological paradise. It is again Skinner, in one
of his many letters to Hooker, who tells us about the
newly discovered beauties: "Mr. Warscewicz has sent
me some 20 boxes of orchids... He is now in Veraguas
on his way south, but so rich do I observe Costa Rica
to be, I will persuade him to return and winter in
Veraguas and Costa Rica... They are splendid examples
of the richest orchid country in the world" (Letter from
Skinner to Hooker, 11.07.1848).
Reichenbach described his collections in 1854
Orchideae Warscewiczianae Recentiores and in 1866
under the title of Orchideae Warscewiczianae and wrote:
"the name of Von Warscewicz shines among those who
have enlarged in a very considerable form the knowledge
of orchids (Reichenbach, 1866; 4)." Some of the types
collected by Warscewicz are: Epidendrum incomptum
Rchb. f (Warscewicz s.n., Panama), Elleanthus
hymenophorus (Rchb. f) Rchb. f. (Warscewicz s.n.,
Panama), Lacaena spectabilis (Klotzsch) Rchb. f.
(Warscewicz W-Rchb. 44742), Maxillaria aciantha
Rchb. f. (Warscewicz s.n., Costa Rica), Maxillaria
atrata Rchb. f. (Warscewicz s.n., Guatemala), Maxillaria
ringens Rchb. f. (Warscewicz s.n., Guatemala),
Mesospinidium warscewiczii Rchb. f. (Warscewicz s.n.),
Oerstedella centropetala (Rchb. f.) Rchb. f. (Warscewicz
s.n., Panama), Oncidium warscewiczii Rchb. f.
(Warscewicz s.n., Costa Rica y Panama), Prosthechea
brassavolae (Rchb. f.) W. E. Higgins (Warscewicz
W-Rchb. 64, Panama), and Sobralia warscewiczii Rchb.
f. (Warscewicz s.n., Panama). Reichenbach named after
him the genus Warscewiczella and a great number of
species (Fig. 33B).
While collecting in Tropical America, Warscewicz
sent to the Botanical Garden in Krakow a number of
interesting orchids that unfortunately were lost during
a severe winter. Those orchids that were rescued,
were used by Franck, Governor of occupied Poland
during World War II, as a decoration of his residence
in Krakow... and were never returned to the Botanical

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Garden (Sampolinski, 1963: 214). Warscewicz had
also interest in hummingbirds, "certainly a choice
of interests in which he was to be envied" (Standley,
1925: 354).
Augustus Fendler (1813-1883) was bom in
Gumbinnen, Prussia, and came to the United States in
1836 to work variously at a tanyard in Philadelphia,
a lamp factory in New York, and a gas works in St.
Louis, until he discovered that a market existed for
dry plants. George Engelmann, of St. Louis, Missouri,
trained him as a collector. Fendler began his travels in
the southwestern United States and collected later in
Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela. In 1846
he was in Nicaragua, where he made a small collection
of plants near Greytown (San Juan del Norte). He went
on to Panama, in 1850, and his collections of this area
are preserved at Kew and Missouri. In Panama he
collected, among others: Oncidium ampliatum Lindl.
(Fendler 331), Dimerandra emarginata (G. Mey.)
Hoehne (Fendler 332), Dichaea panamensis Lindl.
(Fendler 333) and Polystachya foliosa (Lindl.) Rchb.
f. (Fendler 334). Only three new types of orchids
are known among Fendler's collections, although
all appear to be from Venezuela: Cranichis fendleri
Schltr., Liparisfendleri Schltr. and Stelisfendleri Lindl.
He returned to Germany and in the eighteen sixties we
find him again in the United States, where he worked
as an assistant to the great botanist Asa Gray. He
then took up what Gray in dismay called "speculative
physics", publishing a thin book, The Mechanism of
the Universe (1874). Perhaps disappointed with its
reception, Fendler spent the rest of his days on the
island of Trinidad, where he died in 1883.

The Scandinavians

"Our Genus is Homo and our species is sapiens,
and Linnaeus gave us our name. Thus we write
our name Homo sapiens L. "
Carl von Linne (1707-1778) is called, with justice,
"the father of taxonomy". In his famous Species
Plantarum of 1753, he set the foundations for modem
botanical nomenclature. Linne was not only the greatest
botanist of his century, but also founded a school of
scientists whose names had enormous relevance in the

second half of the XVIII and all of the XIX century.
Among his disciples and followers we find Pehr
Kalm (1716-1779), who traveled during three years
studying the plants of the North American colonies;
the unfortunate Pehr Lofling (1729-1756), who
participated in the Spanish expedition to the Orinoco
and Daniel Solander (1733-1782), who was Cook's
naturalist during his first voyage around the world
and introduced to Europe the first collections of plants
from Australia and the South Pacific, and was also in
Surinam (Steele, 1964: 13).
In tropical America one must mention the Dane
Julius von Roth (1737-1793), who was in Jamaica,
Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles between 1757
and 1791 and above all the great Swede Olof Swartz
(1760-1818) who explored Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti
from 1784 to 1786, later publishing his Flora Indiae
Occidentalis (1797-1806), where he described many
new species of orchids. And, although no orchids are
known among his collections, it is important to name
here Johann Emmanuel Billberg (1798-1845), a young
Swedish physician who visited Portobello in Panama
in 1826 and made there an important collection of
plants. Nearly 30 years later, after Billberg's death,
Beurling published his Primitiaeflorae portobellensis,
the first formal list of Panama plants, based upon this
collection" (Standley, 1928: 42).
Two descendants of Linn6's great school, both
Danes, were protagonists in the history of our orchids
during the first half of the XIX century:
Michael Frederik Liebmann (1813-1856) (Fig.
33C), studied in Copenhagen under the great Danish
botanist Frederik Schouw and departed in 1840 to
Mexico, thanks to a grant from the King of Denmark,
to form botanical and zoological collections. In the
company of a gardener, he soon established himself
in the region of Veracruz and was one more of the
numerous guests of Carl Sartorius in his estate
El Mirador. He seems to have collected also in
Guatemala23. The orchids collected by Liebmann
were later studied by Kraenzlin (1920) and Louis
O. Williams (1938-39). He collected in the area
until 1843, when he returned to Denmark, with
a herbarium of 40,000 plants and considerable
zoological collections. In 1845 he was appointed
professor of botany at the University of Copenhagen

23 Ames and Correll, 1985: 475, mention a collection ofEpidanthus paranthicus (Rchb. f.) L.O. Wms. by Liebmann in Guatemala.

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and in 1849 director of the botanical Gardens. Alone
and in conjunction with other botanists he published
many new species, but his death at a relatively young
age meant that many of the natural orders were left
untouched. One of his most important works, Chines
de 'Amerique Tropical (= Oaks of tropical America)
was unfinished and was later completed by Oersted.
Some of the specimens collected by Liebmann
became the types for new species: Dichaea liebmanni
Rchb. f. (Liebmann s.n., El Mirador), Jacquiniella
leucomelana (Rchb. f.) Schltr. (Liebmann s.n.,
Mexico), Odontoglossum beloglossum Rchb. f.
(Liebmann, W-Rchb. 43391, Mexico), and Ponthieva
campestris (Liebm.) Garay (Liebmann 313, Veracruz).
According to Hemsley, for almost all we know of
the botany of Costa Rica we are indebted to Anders
Sandoe Oersted (1816-1872) (Fig. 34A), who explored
this country and Nicaragua between 1846 and 1848
(Hemsley, 1887: 130). He was born at Rudkjobing on
June 21, 1816 in a family which boasted important
names in sciences and politics (Lind, 1913: 17).
"... After several years of teaching and investigation
in Denmark, he started in 1845 a scientific expedition
to the Dutch islands in the Caribbean and Jamaica
(Poulsen, 1848: 876-877). From there he went to
Nicaragua at the end of 1846, where he arrived first
at Bluefields and went then to San Juan del Norte.
It seems that he entered the country [Costa Rica]
through Puntarenas" (Leon, 2002: 133). He collected
intensively in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, especially
in the great volcanic chain that includes the Irazu,
Barba and el Viejo volcanoes, forming a collection
of more than 900 species of superior plants, among
them some 80 Orchidaceae that were later described
by Reichenbach in his Orchideae Oerstedianae, that
form part of his great work on the orchids of Central
America of 1866.
He established his headquarters in San Antonio de
Belen, to the west of the capital (Calvert & Calvert,
1917: 19-20). In February of 1848 he went to the region
of Guanacaste. "The purpose of this trip, promoted
by the government of Costa Rica, was to study the
possibility of opening a canal that would communicate
the bay of Salinas with the lake of Nicaragua. Oersted
presented a plan for the construction of the canal
(Oersted, 1851), but no further attention was paid to
the project".

Oersted describes the two existing roads of that time
to the Atlantic Ocean: the almost abandoned road from
Cartago to Matina and Moin, where he notes that in
the plains of Turrialba the vanillas dominate among the
forest vegetation and the road of Sarapiqui, by which
he returns to San Juan del Norte and from there to
Europe (Oersted, 1863: 3-5) (Fig. 35A).
He returned to Denmark in 1848 and was later
appointed professor of botany, succeeding Liebmann
in this position (Brown, 1872-1873: 4).
Oersted was a great naturalist and a first class
observer, who left vivid descriptions of the landscape of
the different regions of his travels. En 1863 he published
his work on Central America: L'Amerique Centrale,
recherches sur sa flore et sa geographic physique
(=CentralAmerica, studies about itsflora andphysical
geography). "A posthumous work, 'Praecursores
Florae Centroamericana' published in Copenhagen
in 1873, contains fragments of articles by Oersted and
contributions of other authors about his collections of
mosses, Araceae and others" (Leon, 2002: 136).
Among the many species discovered by Oersted,
all described by Reichenbach, are the following:
Beloglottis costaricensis (Rchb. f.) Schltr. (Oersted
s.n., Costa Rica), Bulbophyllum aristatum Rchb.
f. (Oersted s.n., Central America), Bolbophyllaria
oerstedii Rchb. f. (Oersted 6746, Nicaragua) (Fig.
34B), Catasetum oerstedii (= maculatum) Rchb.f.
(Oersted s.n., Nicaragua), Dichaea oerstedii
(= glauca) Rchb. f. (Oersted s.n., Nicaragua),
Epidendrum oerstedii Rchb. f. (Oersted s.n., Costa
Rica), Habenaria oerstedii Rchb. f. (Oersted s.n.,
Nicaragua), Lockhartia oerstedii Rchb. f. (Oersted
W-Rchb. 44337, Costa Rica), Oncidium oerstedii
Rchb. f. (Oersted s.n., Nicaragua), Pleurothallis
segoviensis Rchb. f. (Oersted s.n., Nicaragua),
Polystachya masayensis Rchb. f. (Oersted s.n.,
Nicaragua), and Odontoglossum (= ticoglossum)
oerstedii Rchb. f. (Oersted s.n., Costa Rica).
Reichenbach honored him in his description of the
genus Oerstedella.
So ends the history of orchids in Central America in
the first half of the XIX century. Some 25 collectors,
all of them Europeans (with the exception of the
Mexicans Lexarza and La Llave), discovered in the
three decades after the independence more than 300
species of Orchidaceae new to science.

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"We may c. /.iI, i nIle assume that our country is
destined to be the great nation offuturity "
John L. O'Sullivan, about
'Manifest Destiny', 1839

No nation ever existed without some sense of
national destiny or purpose. Manifest Destiny -- a
phrase used by leaders and politicians in the 1840s
to explain continental expansion by the United States
-- revitalized a sense of "mission" or national destiny
for many Americans. As Sullivan wrote: "This country
will conquest or annex all lands. It is its Manifest
Destiny" (Quesada, 2007). Expansionists were also
motivated by more immediate, practical considerations.
Southerners eager to enlarge the slave empire were
among the most ardent champions of the crusade for
more territory. Washington policy-makers, anxious
to compete with Great Britain for the Asia trade, had
long been convinced of the strategic and commercial
advantages of San Francisco and other ports on the
Pacific coastline of Mexican-owned California.

The Mexican-American war and the decline of
British hegemony

"Remember The Alamo! 26
Battle of San Jacinto, April 21, 1836

As soon as Houston's long awaited order to advance
was given, the Texans did not hesitate. The shouts of
"Remember the Alamo" rang along the entire line.
Within a short time, 700 Mexicans were slain, with
another 730 taken as prisoners. The battle for Texas was
won. The independence of Texas from Mexico led to
annexation and to the Mexican-American war of 1846-
1848, resulting in the acquisition by the United States
of the States of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada,
California, Utah, and parts of Colorado, Wyoming,
Kansas and Oklahoma. Almost one third of the present
area of the United States, nearly a million square miles
of territory, changed sovereignty.
Several botanists were in the expedition that
was later sent out to survey the Mexican-American
border, in order to define the limits between both
countries. Among them was Charles Wright, who

would afterwards explore Nicaragua and the Antilles.
However, the true importance of the Mexican-
American war consisted in the fact that it represented
the beginning of the end of British hegemony in our
region. "By mid-century, Americans were competing
with the British for influence in eastern Nicaragua.
After the 1849 gold rush in California, interest in
building a transoceanic canal across Nicaragua was
intense. The British were seen as adversaries, and a
series of confrontations took place along the coast,
including an incident in which an American warship
bombarded and destroyed Greytown (Bell, 1989: vi)."
Thus the United States took the first steps of its
'manifest destiny' as a world empire that some fifty
years later would become the sole arbiter of the fate
of the Central American countries. During the second
half of the XIX century, the expansionist ambition of
the United States would focus increasingly on Central
America and the Caribbean. With the turn of the
century, the Spanish-American war, the independence
of Panama from Colombia (enforced by the United
States) and the occupation of Nicaragua by the Marine
Infantry in 1912 converted the Caribbean in a true
Mare Nostrum of the American navy (Perez Brignoli,
2000: 22).
Political, economical and social life of Central
America, although still strongly influenced by the
ideas of European liberalism, gravitated each day
more strongly into the United States orbit. The most
important political decisions in the life of the Banana
republics during the second half of the XIX century
were made in Washington and in the headquarters of
the multinational companies inNew York and Chicago.
The history of orchids in Central America was not
immune to these developments. The European
monopoly of botanical exploration in the region
started to fade. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew had
become, during the first half of the XIX century, the
indisputable center of world orchidology. Although
Kew has retained, until the present days, a preeminent
role, its attention began to focus more and more
on the colonies of the growing British Empire in
Africa and Asia, and on South America, where North
American influence was not yet strong. The list of the
collectors in Panama between 1700 and 1923 and their
nationalities published by Dwyer leaves no doubt about

24 The Alamo fell to the Mexican troops of General Santa Ana on March 6, 1836. All survivors were put to the sword.

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the increasing American hegemony (D'Arcy & Correa,
1985: 180 (Fig. 34C)). A gentlemen's agreement seems
to have been established, where Monroe's expression
America for the Americans'had its counterpart in a
thought that was never set in writing: 'the British
Empire for the British'.
Two institutions were founded in the United States
that in the following decades would be leaders in the
exploration of the Central American territories and
would have an enormous influence on the scientific
life of the region. Ironically, both were created by
British citizens. In 1846 an act of Congress was
approved to carry out the terms of the will of James
Smithson (1756-1829), a prominent English scientist
who, strangely enough, had never visited America.
Smithson bequeathed his entire estate to the United
States of America "to found at Washington, under the
name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment
for the increase and diffusion of knowledge..."
Henry Shaw (1800-1889) (Fig. 34D), a native of
Sheffield, England, moved to Saint Louis, Missouri, in
1819. He had such success in his business that he was
able to retire at the age of 40. On a trip back to England,
he was inspired by the grounds of Chatsworth, the
most magnificent private residence in Europe. When
he returned to the U.S., he decided to begin his own
botanical garden. Shaw opened his garden to the
public in 1859. It grew in the European tradition of
horticultural display combined with education and
the search for new knowledge. This institution, now
known as the Missouri Botanical Garden, is acclaimed
today as being a leader in botanical investigation, with
projects in the five continents.
To the aforementioned institutions we must add the
important accomplishments in Central America of the
New York Botanical Garden, created in 1891 by the
botanist Nathaniel Lord Britton, the foundation in 1893
of the 'Columbian Museum of Chicago', known today
as Field Museum of Natural History, fundamental to
the history of the orchids of Central America in the XX
Century, and the creation in 1894 of the United States
National Herbarium.
While Mexico struggled in never ending internal
fights for power after the disaster of the Mexican-

American war25, in which Mexico had lost two fifths of
its territory, botanical exploration continued. In 1850
the Royal Horticultural Society sent the Dalmatian
Mateo Botteri (1808-1877) to collect in Mexico.
After the financial resources of the Society failed,
Botteri stayed collecting on his own and selling his
specimens in London. "His collections of plants were
very fine and extensive, and there is a full set in the
Kew Herbarium, chiefly from the neighborhood of
Orizaba..." (Hemsley, 1887: 133). Botteri settled in
Mexico and died in the vicinity of Veracruz. According
to Schlechter (1918: 323), there were many orchids
among his specimens, although most of them were
described from collections by others.One of them was
Cranichis cochleata, common in Veracruz, Chiapas
and Guatemala, and described years later by Dressler
as a new species from a collection by M.C. Carlson.
Frederick Mueller ( ca. 1855), a native of Alsace,
came to Mexico in 1853, to collect for the firm of
Schlumberger in Mulhouse. Hemsley mentions
several collections by Mueller, all from the region
of Veracruz, based on a complete set that is at Kew.
Worthy to mention are Cattleya citrina Lindl. (Muller
s.n.), Hartwegia purpurea Lindl. (Muller 1414),
Odontoglossum cordatum Lindl. (Muller 488),
Spiranthes orchioides Hemsl. (Muller 810), Stanhopea
bucephalus Lindl. (Muller 503) and Stanhopea tigrina
Batem. ex Lindl. (Muller 976), as well as the type of
Lepanthes orizabensis R. E. Schult. & G. W. Dillon
(Muller s.n., Orizaba, Veracruz). He died in strange
circumstances. "It is supposed that he was murdered
and concealed, as he disappeared and was never heard
of afterwards" (Hemsley, 1887: 134).
The German dentist Wilhelm Schaffner (1830-
1882), whom we remember in Cranichis schaffneri
Rchb. f, settled in Mexico around 1856. Although his
collections are of great importance, they were made
outside of the limits of
Another German, Karl Theodor Mohr (1824-1901),
better known for his Plant Life of Alabama (1901)
emigrated from his native country to the United States
in 1848 and traveled to Panama and Mexico (1857)
before he established himself as a druggist in Mobile,
Alabama, where he remained for the rest of his life

25 General Santa Ana, who had commanded the Mexican troops during the war, had to go into exile. He returned to power in 1853
until in 1855 he was overthrown by Benito Juarez, who governed until 1872 and would have to face, during his period, the French

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C wallace, Scottish 1700
Jussieu. Jos. De French 17??
Millar. R. English 1734
Nee, L, French 17'
Haence, T. Bohemian 1790-1791 D
Billberg. J. Swedish 18
Dahlin. E. Finnish 18261831
Cuming. H. English 1830-1831
Hind. B- English 1837 etc.
Barclay, C, Enish 1837 etc.
Sinclair, A. English 1837 etc.
Lbb, W. Engih 1843
Scemann, B. GCrman 1846:1849
Warscewiz J. Polish 1848, 1850
Behr, H. Gennan 1848
Frmndlr, A. American 1848-1849
Ball, Irish 1852
Halsted. M. American 1850-1854
Kuntze. O. German 1874
Duchssaing. E. French 1849-1851
Hayes. S. American before 1863
Hoel. B. Czech 1869
Hart, J. English 1885
Cowell. J. American 1905
Howe. M. American 109-1910
Williams, R. S. American 1808
Pittier, H. Swiss 1910-1911;
Powell. C. American 1907-1927
Ostenfek, C. Dane 1921-1922
Bro. Gervais Panamanian 1912
Bro. Celestine Panamanian 1912
Steven, F. L. American 1924
MacBride, J. American 1918
Rose. J. American 1918
Maxon, W. American 1911; 1923
Hitchock. A. A. American 1911
Killip, E. P. America 1917-1918: 1922 "
Piper, C. V. American 1923 '
Coldman. F A. American 189?-19??

FIGURE 34. A Anders Sandoe Oersted (1816-1872). Courtesy of Rudolf Jenny. B Bulbophyllum oerstedii (A. Rich. )
Griseb. Illustration by Pilar Casasa. C -Collectors in Panama 1700-1923, and their nationalities. In D'Arcy & Correa,
1985: 180. D Henry Shaw (1800-1889). Sketch in a postcard from MLB's postcard series, courtesy of the Hunt Institute
for Botanical Documentation.

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A 1
Al wA
".4 i i

-.a: WI 1 5 1

j 2 t
mA b ?i


. $000'



Proffl du chemin de Rio da San Juan a Alajuela.

FIGURE 35. A Oersted: altitude profile of the road to Sarapiqui. Plate 1, Oersted, 1863. B Alligators in San Juan River. In
Belt, 1874: 9.

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OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

(Wunderlin et al., 2000: 64). Little is known of Mohr's
collections in Mesoamerica, except for one specimen
of Epidendrum propinquum A. Rich. & Gal. (Mohr
570, Veracruz).

The California gold rush and the interoceanic canal

"Boys, by God, I believe I have found a gold mine! "
James Wilson Marshall, January 12, 1848

The discovery of gold in California was the spark
that started the most massive human migration in the
history of America. Over 90,000 persons traveled to
California in the two years that followed Marshall's
discovery, and over 300,000 in 1854. The gold fever
in California led to the exploration of shorter routes
between both oceans. The San Juan River in Nicaragua
and the Isthmus of Panama became the passages for
fast travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. One
must consider that the journey by land from the East
Coast of the United States to California took five
months: a truly painful prowess (Guier, 1971: 82).
Thousands of adventurers (initially North Americans
and later from all over the world) came to Central
America, a forgotten region that suddenly became one
of the areas of greatest traffic in passengers and in the
focus point of world attention.
"We arrived in Panama on January 19, 1849, after
an absence of almost nine months. The stories of the
recently discovered Californian mines... brought such
a number of adventurous emigrants that the usual
facilities of food and lodging collapsed completely"
(Berthold Seemann, cited in Heckadon-Moreno, 1998:
27). The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850, although
permitting England to retain her positions in Belize,
the Mosquito Coast and the Bay Islands, accepted for
the first time the U. S. pretensions to control the future
interoceanic canal. "In this way Great Britain, although
maintaining all her possessions in Central America and
still retaining much power during the 1850's, began
ceding ground in favor of the United States" (Obreg6n-
Quesada, 1993: 115). As the Nicaraguan historian
Jose Dolores Gamez wrote ingenuously several years
later, "the American government, having noticed the
conduct of the British towards us, came generously to
our help" (Gamez, 1888).
Effective control of the area by the United States
had begun in 1847, with the foundation of the 'Panama

Railroad Company', with the purpose of building a
railroad between Colon and Panama City. Two years
later, in 1849, the North American tycoon Cornelius
Vanderbilt founded the 'American Atlantic Pacific
Ship Canal Company', with the intention of building
an interoceanic canal in Nicaragua. The San Juan
River and the Lake of Nicaragua were initially used
for this passage. Vanderbilt's first steamers navigated
the San Juan River in 1851, while the first train
crossed the isthmus of Panama on January 28, 1855.
The competition between both routes was strong, but
as soon as the railroad was built, Panama began to be
preferred, being much more comfortable and secure
than the tortuous passage of the San Juan River, full
of obstacles and immersed, since 1855, in the war
against Walker (Fig. 35B). Wells (1854) mentions a
third route, which consisted in an interoceanic railroad
in Honduras, from the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of
Fonseca. However, this plan never became reality,
due to geographic and financial difficulties (Wells,
1982: 117). The Panama route declined again after the
completion of the construction of the railroad between
San Francisco and the Eastern States in 1869 (Reclus,
1881: 55-56).
Among the foreign adventurers and the employees
of the North American companies we find numerous
names that are relevant to the history of orchids in
Central America. Botanical exploration of the region
entered a new era, facilitated by improved routes
of communication and by the growing commercial
relations between the Central American republics,
Europe and the United States. Referring to Costa Rica,
Evans wrote: "Two events outside [ofC. R.]... reversed
the scientific community's disinterest... international
demand for coffee and speculation of a trans-isthmus
canal in lower Central America" (Evans, 1999: 16).
Hans Hermann Behr (1818-1904) (Fig. 36A),
German botanist and entomologist, poet and novelist,
was born at Colthen in East Germany. After graduating
in medicine at Wurzburg, he was encouraged by
his mentors, Karl Ritter and the famous German
explorer, Alexander von Humboldt, to visit Australia
(Kraehenbuehl, 2002: 1). Behr visited Australia in 1844
and settled in 1862 in California, where he was named
curator of entomology of the California Academy of
Science. He was responsible, through his contacts in
Australia, where he had worked with the prestigious

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.


botanist Baron von Mueller, for the introduction
of Eucalyptus into California. From his Australian
collections, Schlechtendahl (1847) described as new
species of Orchidaceae Caladenia behrii y Diuris
behrii. In 1888, Behr published his Flora (ciil Vicinity
of San Francisco. Behr had visited Central America
around 1849 and collected several specimens of
orchids in the region of Chagres, Panama, among them
the type specimen of ".!-/, 3 ,i.. -' behrii Rchb. f. ex
Hemsl. (Behr s.n., Chagres, Panama). "As a physician
he was second to none in medical knowledge and
kept well posted on the progress in medical science.
It cannot be said that he loved his profession. Still less
did he understand the art, so highly developed among
modem physicians, of making it pay" (Essig, 1965:
The English sailor John Melmoth Dow (1827-1892)
(Fig. 36B) was already introduced in the previous
chapter. Until 1850 he had transported passengers
across the isthmus by the Nicaragua route. As captain of
the steamers Columbus and GoldenAge, he inaugurated
the Central American service of the 'Panama Railroad
Company Steamship Line', traveling from Panama
to San Francisco, along the western coast of Central
American. He developed a strong friendship with
Skinner and Salvin and was responsible for the safe
transportation of many live orchid plants from Central
America to England. Of him writes Bovallius: "... since
long time known for his generosity and indefatigable
good will towards the researchers of the nature of
these regions" (Bovallius, 1974: 99). Bateman honored
Dow with the dedication of his Cattleya dowiana and
Endres and Reichenbach did the same with Lycaste
dowiana. Dow was also interested in marine fauna
and sent important collections to the Smithsonian
Institution in Washington. In his navigation diary, on
October 16, 1854, he wrote: "The health of the Isthmus
is good, and the railroad is progressing with great
rapidity...". However, the health cannot been as good
as Dow thought, if we believe a popular saying cited
by Bovallius in his book, in that "under each crosstie of
the rails lies the body of a Chinese or a white man..."
(Bovallius, 1974: 34).
Edouard Placide Duchassaing de Fontbressin
(1819-1873), a French citizen, was bom in the island
of Guadeloupe and took a medical degree in Paris. He

returned to practice medicine in that island, and at St.
Thomas, he made natural history collections from 1844
to 1848. Because of the revolution in the latter year he
moved to Panama, where he collected between 1849
and 1851. "During these years he had a sanitarium at
Panama, and in his leisure time collected plants in the
neighborhood ofthe city and on Taboga Island" (Standley,
1928: 44-45). Although he did not collect many orchids,
he is famous for having discovered the largest terrestrial
orchid in Central America: Selenipedium chica Rchb.
f. (Duchassaing s.n., Panama)26 (Fig. 36C). The plants
collected by Duchassaing where twelve to fifteen feet
high and had been bought by him from an Indian chief
(Anonymous, 1923: 69). Duchassaing reported that the
fruits of S. chica produced a fragrant substance similar to
that ofvanilla. For this reason they were called in Panama
vanillaa de arbol' (= 'tree vanilla'). The specimens
collected by Duchassaing were sent to Walpers, from
whom they were purchased by Grisebach. They were
the base for Grisebach's Novitiae flora panamensis
(Bonplandia 6: 2-12, 1858), where some new species are
described. Of great importance were also Duchassaing's
contributions to the investigation of marine fauna, of
which he made important collections in Panama.
Moritz Wagner (1813-1887) (Fig. 36D) and Carl
Ritter von Scherzer (1821-1903), the former German
and the latter Austrian, traveled in 1852 through the
United States, and embarked for Central America in
the first months of 1853 (Wolkenhauer, 188: 92).
Wagner, the more important of the two for our story,
was an experienced traveler, influenced by the ideas
of Humboldt and Darwin. He received his education
at the University of Augsburg, worked later as a clerk
in a trading company in Marseille and went in 1834 to
Paris, Erlangen and Munich to study natural sciences.
He visited Algeria in 1836-38, studied geology in
Goettingen from 1838 to 1842 and explored the
Caucasus and Armenia in 1842-46. Italy followed in
1846-49 and Asia Minor, Persia and the Kurdistan in
1850-51. Wagner & Scherzer arrived at San Juan del
Norte in April of that year and traveled to Costa Rica
by way of the rivers San Juan and Sarapiqui.
The first notice of this route dates back to 1620,
when Diego de Mercado, at the request of the Spanish
authorities, who were interested in finding a way
between the Atlantic and the Pacific because of the

26 The stems of Selempedium chica reach often a height of 5 meters.

LANKESTERIANA9( -2), August 2009. O Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.

OSSENBACH Orchids and orchidology in Central America

insalubrity of Panama, submitted a report to the
government in Guatemala in which he stated that he had
found the desired communication along two different
routes. "The first one navigating upstream along the
'Desaguadero' [= the Drainage = the San Juan River]
to the mouth of the Sarapiqui, then upstream for more
than twenty leagues and from that point to the Royal
Embarkment (the mouth of the Tempisque River on the
Gulf of Nicoya). The road was of 'hard earth and not
marshy' and only 15 leagues long...". The other route
consisted in what was later known as the Nicaragua
Canal, sailing the San Juan River upstream to the Lake
of Nicaragua and building from there a canal to the
Pacific Coast (Secretaria de Gobierno, 1924: 330-331).
This road of Sarapiqui was the only communication
between the central valley of Costa Rica and the
Atlantic port of Greytown, in Nicaragua, from where
the ships sailed to the United States and Europe, and
was of great importance in the history of the botanical
exploration of the country, until it was replaced by
the route Puntarenas-Balboa-Col6n, after the railroad
across the isthmus of Panama was built (inaugurated
in 1855). Steamships sailed from Greytown to
Southampton (Royal West Indian Mail Steamers) and to
New York (Atlantic and Pacific Ship Canal Company)
twice a month. The journey to New York took 7 days,
to Southampton 32 days. (Molina, 1851: 41). The old
road to Sarapiqui was replaced in 1880 by the 'road
of Carrillo'27, which communicated San Jose with the
Sucio River and joined there the new railroad to Port
Limon. Finally, the railroad between San Jose and
Port Limon was completed in 1890. From the builder
of both routes, Minor C. Keith (1848-1922), who
traveled frequently to the Costa Rican Atlantic region,
we have this description of the tropical rain forest:
"Their trunks were covered by climbing plants and
parasites of reddish colors and various shades of green,
by lichens, fungi, bromeliads, and the most beautiful
orchids" (Salazar Navarrete, 2004: 126).
After being in Costa Rica, Wagner and Scherzer
collected in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and
Guatemala, "although very few species were described
based on specimens collected by Wagner and Scherzer.

The reason for this could be the loss of the botanical
collections during the earthquake of El Salvador in 1854,
when Wagner almost lost his life" (Leon, 2002: 139).
Wagner returnedto Europe and shortly thereafter, in 1857,
sponsored by King Maximilian II of Bavaria, returned
to Panama and Ecuador. He dedicated considerable time
to the study of the possibility of connecting the two
oceans, a subject on which he published several articles.
Moritz Wagner and Carl Scherzer wrote in 1856 The
Republic of Costa Rica in Central America, published
in German. Their descriptions of the flora, fauna and
culture are still very interesting. "No other foreign
author has described with more sympathy the tiny state
called by them the most gentle and peaceful among the
fraternity di,- republics ofSpanish America, a country
blessed by Heaven, where nature displays in the slopes
of the mountains the most wonderful variety of climates
and products" (Pittier, 1908: 19).
Descriptions of orchids are frequently found in the
pages of this book: "Parasitic plants [...] climbers,
vines, pendent vegetables and orchids, which group
themselves often in the branches in the forms of
candelabrums, of bouquets or also of stars..." "Higher
up [on the trunks] begin the tillandsias, ipomeas,
loranthaceae, agaves, cacti, dendrobiums [sic] [...]"
"The begonias and orchids on the trees [...] were here
of a particular magnificence". "[...] The ostentatious
orchids, which -for their rare forms- resemble butterflies
or humming-birds with extended wings, grow on many
live or dead trunks" (Wagner & Scherzer, 1856: 122,
136, 137, 168). Wagner discovered the type of Triphora
wagneri Schltr. (M. Wagner 1778, Panama) and several
species were dedicated to him, such as Bulbophyllum
wagneri Schltr. and Stelis wagneri (Schltr.) Pridgeon &
M. W Chase.
Scherzer would write later his Travels in the free
states of Central America: Nicaragua, Honduras and
San Salvador and gained worldwide fame through his
discovery in 1854 in Guatemala of the manuscript of
the Popol Vuh by Friar Francisco Xim6nez, which he
published for the first time in Vienna, in 186128. In 1863
Wagner wrote The province of Chiriqui in Central
America. No orchid collections by Scherzer are known,

27 So named in remembrance of Braulio Carrillo (1800-1845), President of Costa Rica between 1835 and 1837 and again between
1838 and 1842, who first thought of a road to the Atlantic along this route.
28 Although Scherzer's publication came first, it was Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg who gave the manuscript the name of
Popol Vuh, Le Livre Sacre et les mythes de 'antiquzte amnrcaine, and who made it known worldwide.

LANKESTERIANA9(1 2), August 2009. 0 Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009.

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