If you’re a city in the second most biodiverse country in the world after Brazil, having a botanical garden is kind of a duuh moment. You just gotta do it. Fortunately nature in its luxuriousness here makes putting one together a cinch. You fence off a piece of native forest, stick some cuttings in the ground and BINGO! You’ve got yourself a botanical garden.
The one in Pereira is part of the Technological University of Pereira (Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira = UTP), which I found out to my great surprise is the only public university in Pereira, a city of some 500,000 people. I’d expect a fistful of public universities in such a city. No such luck. It’s hard to get in and fiercely competitive.
UTP does itself proud with a full-fledged botanical garden geared heavily toward didactic ends. Student guides take around small groups and do quite a bit of explaining. The group I was in had about 8 people in it, including three children. I was astonished to find the guide intent on explaining what seemed the entire natural history of the Planet in what I (wrongly) assumed would be a leisurely amble through the grounds. After the first lecture I knew I was in for hours of jabber and very little looking at plants. I’ve read enough to know that plants use carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. I’ve also heard through the grapevine that conservation is important for all sorts of reasons. So after three lectures I ditched the group and sallied forth on my own so I could listen to the forest instead of to the guide talking a mile a minute. I went to see the plants, after all, not to get a free semester’s worth of Science 101. Call me a curmudgeon if you will but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Here’s a schematic of the garden:
The full circuit makes for quite a hike because as always in the Coffee Triangle there’s a lot of ups and downs. But my budding buns of steel were well up to the job and ended the full circuit with oomph to spare. Woohoo. Let’s hear it for Gray Power. I’m going to go heavy on the pics and skimpy on the botanical commentary in this post — any regular readers of my posts on things horticultural will doubtless roll their eyes back at that promise, since I’ve never made it before 🙂 — so fasten that visual seatbelt. You’re in for a ride.
Things start off with a rather battered-looking orchidarium that only had three specimens in bloom when I visited. One that was blooming was so stunning, however, that I didn’t feel shortchanged by the experience. Here it is in all its glory:
I don’t even know what to call that color but it doesn’t matter. When the image enters your eyeballs it’s like getting an electric charge. I’ve never seen anything like it before. By the way, Colombia is Number One in the world for both orchids and palms. I’m sure there are many more stunners like this one waiting to be discovered.
The tour continues with a lengthy discourse on hummingbirds. They’re jaunty little creatures, to be sure, but they’re not plants. I went for plants, a reasonable expectation when one visits a botanical garden, I think. So twenty minutes of yakking about hummingbirds made me tap my toes on the concrete walkway wondering when we’d get to the good stuff. Before you enter the forest part of the garden with the circuit pathway there’s another twenty-minute lecture to withstand about botanical gardens and their importance for conservation. At long last you get into the forest area but wait — there’s another twenty minute lecture on the collection of plants in the Araceae (arum) family — philodendrons, pothos, spathyphyllum, things we’re used to seeing as houseplants in the States. FINALLY you start moving along the circuit pathway until you come after brief motion forward to yet another Science 101 display sign and it’s time to discuss at length the evolutionary history of the plant kingdom. Yeehaw.
All of this was delivered in Spanish spoken so quickly it made a Puerto Rican seem slow of tongue. At the point paleobotany kicked in my patience ran out. I left the group and started walking the circuit with the friend who had come with me. I wanted to experience the forest and the guide was stealing its thunder in a way that made me yearn to say, “Dear heart, there’s about 1 km of pathway to cover, so can you just stifle yourself, pretty please?” But I kept my mouth shut (because my momma raised me right) and took off to encounter the forest on its own terms without scientific commentary. Thus ended my qvetching, as well, you’ll be happy to hear. These foreigners, such a pain …
So let’s get to the pics and leave the guide behind droning on about carbon cycles and whatnot. I can Google it if I need to catch something I missed. Ready? Right, then let’s hit the trail.
Moving from the orchidarium to the forest pathway takes you through some lovely ornamental plantings. Here are some pics of my favorites: