|The Orchid House (Orquidario) & Botanical Gardens in Estepona, Málaga.|
ORCHID HOUSE (ORQUIDARIO) Estepona & Botanical Gardens
By Marianne Hill and Chris Chaplow
From the outside of the Orquidario, the state of the art building complete with three glass domes is eye catching, and from the inside it is pretty impressive too. There is much to catch your eye from the moment you step inside, from the 30m high central glass dome (the other two domes are 6m and 16m high) to the stunning display of plants. There are 5000 plants and 1.300 species and these have been carefully selected so that visitors will be sure to see beautiful flowering displays no matter what the time of year. It is claimed as the biggest collection in Europe.
Visitors follow a winding path that takes them through the beautiful displays of orchids via a circuitous route from the entrance all the way around to the exit. One eye catching feature is the 17m high continious waterfall supplemented by an intermittent 30m waterfall. The path leads visitors along behind this and then in front of the waterfall, where a small bridge goes over the pools of water at the bottom from where the path continues up through further displays of orchids.
|The waterfalls at the Orchid House are spectacular.|
It was built on the 13.000m2 site of the old Cooperativa Agrícola Estepona (Estepona farmers cooperative) an original farmers wholesale market which did include a small retail fruit and vegetable shop. It also served as the asembly point for the many town processions such as San Isidro. The cooperative has moved up to a new facility on the Poligono. (Industral Estate).
The orchid house (orquidario) and its surrounding botanical gardens in Estepona were inaugurated on Saturday March 28th and attracted 35,000 visitors in the first week. The orchid house received 100,000 visitors in its first year however it is quieter when a small admission charge was introduced in the second year. The gardens were named after Baroness Carmen Thyssen in March 2018.
The 'tour' is self guided path with a number of explanatory plates in English and Spanish. One enters from the foyer at high level into a distinctly tropical environment. The first group of Orchids is the Cattleya, a genus of 113 species of orchids from Costa Rica and the Lesser Antilles south to Argentina. The genus was named in 1824 by John Lindley after William Cattley. One species of these in the Estepona house only flowers for 12 hrs a year. The tour continues demonstrating orchids on a rockery, orchids on vines, and orchids on a pergola where the Stanhopea (A genus of the orchid family from Central and South America named in 1829 for Philip Henry Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Stanhope) flowers growing downwards.
The humid forest area continues with Bulbophyllum (one of the largest genera in the orchid family with more than 2,000 species) and Gongora (Orchids of 65 species from Colombia, Central America, Trinidad, and tropical South America which grow in wide geographical range from wet forests at sea level to mountainous regions in the Andes, as high as 1,800 m. The name comes from Antonio Caballero y Gongora, born 1723 in Priego de Cordoba died in Cordoba 1796, Viceroy of New Granada (today Colombia and Ecuador) and Archbishop of Bogotá.)
From the house's waterfall viewpoint follow the path down behind the big waterfall. Look up and notice the smooth laminar flow is for the first part of the water fall before the turbulent flow begins. In fluid mechanics characterized by chaotic changes in pressure and flow velocity where inertial forces dominate viscous forces.
At the foot descending path are boardwalks around lake, use the wet marks on the boards as your red line; just in case the 30m intermittent waterfall erupts when you are underneath. This zone is so much cooler than above and the lateral draft at the foot of the waterfall, created from descending air trapped and forced downwards in pockets around the water, is most welcome.
In this area are Dracula orchids (genus Dracula consists of 118 species native to Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The name Dracula literally means "little dragon", an allusion to the mythical Count Dracula. The name was applied to the orchid because of the blood-red color of several of the species and the strange aspect of the long spurs of the sepals.)
Climb up the steps (or take the lift) past a miniature orchid garden in a glass case, use the magnifying glasses to spot the minute flowers.
Other interesting orchids and trees
Vanilla orchids can be seen, best known for the flavoring derived from them, primarily from the Mexican species, flat-leaved vanilla (Vanilla planifolia). The word vanilla, derived from the diminutive of the Spanish word vaina (vaina meaning sheath or pod). Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican people including Aztecs cultivated the vine and Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés is credited with introducing vanilla (and chocolate) to Europe in the 1520s.
Cyrtostachys renda, also known as red sealing wax palm is native to Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia. With its bright red crownshafts and leaf sheaths, Cyrtostachys renda has become a popular ornamental plant. Although it is not the source of sealing wax, the palm got its name because it is same color as the wax used to seal letters and from about the 16th century envelopes.
You can also see orchids growing on a Cananga tree (Cananga odorata) a tropical tree that originates in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Philippines. It is valued for the perfume extracted from its flowers, called ylang-ylang.
Achiote (Bixa orellana) is small tree originating from the tropical region of the Americas. North, Central and South American natives originally used the seeds to make red body paint and lipstick. The lipstick tree the source of Annatto, a natural orange-red condiment obtained from the waxy arils that cover its seeds. Annatto and its extracts are also used as an natural food coloring to add yellow or orange color to many products such as butter, cheese, sausages, cakes, and popcorn.
Shop and Cafes
There is a small souvenir shop in the foyer and a number of cafe's with terraces facing the park. There are occasional summer musical concerts in the Estepona Orquidario. The building can be reserved for special events.
There is a quarterly magazine published in Spanish called Revista Orchidarium. The first five editions can be downloaded from this web site, and the sixth here (25MB PDF), and the seventh here (25MB PDF).
Tueday to Saturday: 09.00 to 14.00 hrs and 16.00 to 19.00 hrs
Sunday: 10.00 to 14.00 hrs
(The exterior gardens are always open)
General Entrance, adults: 3€
Children 4 to 11 yrs: 1€
Tel: 951 517 074
Due to its location in the centre of town parking for the orchid house and botanical gardens is limited to parking. We recommend you park in one of the two underground parkings under the seafront promenade and walk up Calle de la Terraza.
Calle Terraza, 86, Estepona