Endemic orchids of Ecuador


Red books are useful tools by which to assess conservation efforts and in this case this effort provides taxonomic and population information as well as information about potential threats such as habitat conversion. However, due to the nature of their content, users should be aware that red lists are dynamic and updated to reflect current information and available data.

As part of this website, we report information for the endemic orchids of Ecuador. This is a collaborative effort led by the QCA Herbarium and represents individual contributions from several orchid taxonomists and institutions. >More about the history of this project

Patterns of endemism of Ecuadorian orchids

The orchid family comprises approximately one-third of the total endemic vascular plant species of Ecuador (1710 orchid spp.). In other words, three (3) out of every ten (10) endemic plants in Ecuador is an orchid.

In Ecuador, orchids can be found in all habitats within 0 to 4500 meters (m) in elevation. To gain a better understanding of orchid diversity and its distribution, we conducted a Parsimony Analysis of Endemism (PAE) and a covariance test correcting for area. The results of these analyses indicate that the majority of endemic orchids occur in montane microhabitats between 1500-3000m, especially in the low montane and cloud montane forests (vegetation units follow Sierra et al. 1999 classification system). >Results and discussion of PAE..

A high proportion of the endemic orchids are confined to small areas (e.g., one to three localities) and are restricted to narrow altitudinal ranges (100-300m). More than half (58%) of the endemic orchids are restricted to one forest type, 26% to two forest types, 10% to three forest types, and only 6% to four or more forest types. The combination of small distribution profiles and fast forest conversion is a challenge for orchid conservation efforts, especially because only a small fraction of the species has been registered in the National System of Protected Areas (SNAP). Our assessment estimates that 85% of the endemic orchids of Ecuador are threatened: 2% Critically Endangered, 11% Endangered and 87% Vulnerable. > More information and to browse the orchid threatened categories

The orchid flora of Ecuador belongs mainly to subtribe Pleurothallidinae (65%), distantly followed by subtribe Laeliinae (12%) and subtribe Oncidiinae (9%). > View the phylogenetic distribution of this dataset

Literature cited

-Sierra, R., Cerón, C., Palacios W., Valencia, R. 1999. Propuesta preliminar de un sistema de clasificación de la vegetación para el Ecuador continental. Proyecto INEFAN/GEF-BIRF, Wildlife Conservation Society and EcoCiencia. Quito, Ecuador.
-Valencia , R. N. Pitman, S. León-Yánez & P.M. Jorgensen. 2000. Libro Rojo de las Plantas Endémicas del Ecuador 2000. Publications of QCA Herbarium, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito.


The covariance analysis was performed by Selene Báez. A portion of Lorena Endara’s work was financed by American Orchid Society, U.S. National Science Foundation grant DDIG to Lorena Endara & N. H. Williams.