Guarianthe (formerly Cattleya) skinneri is the most cultivated orchid in Costa Rica. The name was given to it in England, by the botanist James Bateman to honor its discoverer, Mr. George Ure Skinner, who was an English merchant living in Guatemala, who shipped plants from Central America and southern Mexico to Europe.
However, it was in Guatemala that Skinner first discovered it. Despite being distributed throughout Central America and even in Colombia and Venezuela included, it is in Guatemala and Costa Rica where it is most abundant, appreciated and cultivated. In Guatemala, it is popularly known by the name of Flor de Candelaria or Flor de San Sebastian, since the beginning of its flowering coincides with these two religious festivities, and is used as an ornament for churches and processions.
The GUA root is not European, nor Asian, nor African, it is a surname of clean American extraction, which runs in the sap of the Andean jungle, in many indigenous languages. The root GUAITIL means tree and was transformed into the radical GUA; and that it is related to the characteristics of orchids to grow on trees, that is, as epiphytes.
The abundant flowering lasts between February and March. It is called “purple” in reference to the reddish purple color of its flowers, similar to that of blackberries, small berries of the spiny plants of the genus Rubus.
Its flowering at this time, the color of its flowers and the appreciation that the people have for it, makes them use it for the decoration of altars during Lent for the “Garden” and the Holy Sepulcher in Holy Week. There is a great variety in the color of the flowers, from purple, to albas, albas oculatas (white with a purple spot on the throat of the lip) and pink.
It lives in the peaceful area of the country, and in pre-mountainous areas from 500 to 1000 meters. It is epiphyte of certain temperate land trees. Its ecological distribution is as follows: Premontane Humid Forest, Premontane Very Humid Forest, Montane Very Humid Forest, Tropical Very Humid Forest, Lower Montane Rain Forest, Tropical Humid Forest, and Premontane Transitional Very Humid Tropical Forest.
Traditionally, our grandparents cultivated the “Guaria Morada” on the walls of the internal courtyards and on the roofs of many old houses, in the gardens or on the grounds of their houses, but it was classic to see them on the outside, on the adobe walls. or bahareque, on clay tiles, as the song by Anibal Reni y los Talolingas says.
This type of cultivation was very common in traditional cities such as: Cartago, Escazú, Santo Domingo de Heredia or Barva, but telluric movements, such as that of 1810 and the “renovating” architectural movements, put an end to this pleasant custom. Also, it was possible to appreciate them in the trees of the parks or in the canyons of the Virilla, Grande or Tárcoles rivers.
Overexploitation for profit by unscrupulous “masons” caused them to disappear from these sites. In their natural habitat, they can only currently be seen on private farms in Acosta, Miramar, Miravalles or Nicoya.
In addition, some gardens in Palmares such as La Cocaleca, or Naranjo, due to the amount of plants they have, constitute a kind of conservation sanctuary for the most appreciated guaria.
Our National Flower
It is not surprising, then, that the Guaria Morada was chosen as the national flower, since, even the pre-Columbian Indians and the first colonizers appreciated them, the women of the indigenous people liked to adorn their heads, with their large purple flowers.
The process to choose the Guaría Morada as National Flower began in 1936. On March 12 of that year, the Director of Parks and Gardens of the Municipality of La Plata in Argentina, sent a request to the Consul General of Costa Rica, with the objective of knowing which was the national flower. The request was due to the fact that the Jardin de La Paz was being created in that city, in which all countries would be represented by its flower.
This request was forwarded to the Secretary of State, who commissioned Professor José Marfa Orozco, head of the Botanical Section of the National Center for Agriculture, to make a proposal. In 1937 Orozco carried out a vote to choose a flower and no one was surprised that the Guaría Morada was chosen. Not only professionals and horticulturists participated in this vote, but also high school and university students.
For this reason, under the presidency of Mr. León Cortés Castro, it was decreed on June 15, 1939 through Agreement No. 24 as a national flower, later, through executive agreement No. 24 November 1972, with Mr. José Figueres being president. Ferrer, a decree was issued, according to which, “the second week of March is established as the week of the Costa Rican Orchid”, as it is the time when Guaria Morada is at the peak of its flowering; In addition, it instructs the Costa Rican Orchid Association to organize and celebrate the activity, which it fulfills by holding the National Exhibition during the month of March.
The Guaria Morada is also the National Flower of Costa Rica, because it is the mystical flower of faith, which was inherited from the elders. It is the favorite flower of Lent, the heraldic flower of Holy Week; It is not only intimately linked to the traditions of the country, but it is also one of the national symbols. For this reason it must be esteemed and protected, so that future generations can also enjoy the spectacular beauty of its flowers.
As a way to highlight this national symbol of great beauty, its image was integrated into the design of an old five-colone note, considered one of the most beautiful that has been issued.