Book Review: Orchids in the Mist: Orchids of the Cloud Forests of Southwestern Colombia

2011. 192 pages. Hardcover with jacket, 516 color photographs, 13 black-and-white photos, three color and two black-and-white illustrations, six line drawings, four maps, 386 line drawings. El Color de Colombia Ediciones Artisticas, Cali, Colombia. $85.00. English edition ISBN 978-958-44-8527-4.

This gorgeous book is different from the typical orchid book. In addition to the beautiful photographs and catalog of species, it is designed to be read. The foreword by Stuart Pimm, a well-known conservationist, sets the stage for a look at the biodiversity of Colombia. The book starts with an easy-to-read introduction to the orchid family illustrated with drawings and photographs. The natural history of orchids is discussed, including habitats, pollinators and the evolutionary success of the family. Then the author zeros in on the cloud forests of Colombia, revealing both flora and fauna along with the orchids of the mist. Not to be overlooked, the ethnic and cultural diversity of the peoples of the region and their interaction with the forest is presented. The major genera of orchids found in the cloud forest are summarized before the expected nicely illustrated catalog of species.

The chapter of conservation of nature in Colombia covers both medium- and long-term threats, and a pragmatic strategy to protect species and ecosystems. The need for sustainable use on both public and private lands along with education is summarized in the author’s recommendations. The author’s casual writing style results in a readable book on complex subjects. Regardless of whether you purchase this book for the stunning photographs, the catalog of species or an introduction to Andean cloud forests, you will not be disappointed. This book will make a valuable addition to any orchid library.

Wesley E. Higgins, PhD, is a member of the Adjunct Graduate Faculty, Florida Gulf Coast University Fort Myers, Florida, and a member of the AOS Publications Committee.