En este momento estás viendo Jirafitas in Sierra de la Cañada of Isla de la Juventud?
Photo: Ana Esther Zulueta

Jirafitas in Sierra de la Cañada of Isla de la Juventud?

To think of the tallest species of land animal in existence makes any mortal doubt that Jirafitas are part of the rich biodiversity of flora and fauna of the Sierra de la Cañada Protected Area of Managed Resources on the Isle of Youth.

Yes, in the center-west of the territory, about 26 kilometers from Nueva Gerona, there is, among other species of its genus, a singular variety of orchid: the Jirafitas (Orchis Prostechea Boothiana), which is distinguished among the flora of the place by its particular spots very similar to those of the artiodactyl mammal, of the Giraffidae family, typical of Africa.

Its presence in this pine forest area does not make it exclusive to this place; its adaptability to different levels of relative humidity and light intensity makes possible the wide distribution of this epiphyte plant, throughout the Antilles, Mexico, Florida and Central America, where it usually grows in coastal forests below 200 meters of altitude.

Photo: Ana Esther Zulueta

The book Las Orquídeas de Cuba reveals in its pages that the Jirafita is one of the 130 species of orchids endemic to Cuba, and is among the more than 300 registered so far in this archipelago.

Juan A. Llamacho and Julio A. Larramendi, authors of the text, refer that this specimen is distinguished by its disk-shaped pseudobulbs, it blooms from June to November and in one inflorescence it can have from three to 15 flowers, depending on the health of the plant.

Although it grows practically in most of the Cuban vegetal formations, in Sierra de la Cañada it surprises its abundant presence in perfect symbiosis with manaca palms and strongly embraced to imposing centennial trees.

With variations in the polychrome of its labellum, from yellow with brown spots to green splashed with dark brown, the exclusive flowers of the Jirafita exhale a scent of vanilla and chocolate, which enhances its ecological interactions with the pollinating agents of the environment.

Photo: Ana Esther Zulueta

Although orchids in the Caribbean nation are the subject of specialized studies to prevent the loss of endangered varieties and to access the discovery of new species, little has been said and written about those that exist in the land of Pinar del Río.

Although it is not considered among the most beautiful orchids that bloom in Cuban lands, it is admired by those who have the privilege of contemplating its strange appearance and complicated filigree, in the style of the tallest mammals in the world.

Both it and its congeners in the territory deserve a nod from science, because yes, in Sierra de la Cañada Jirafitas grow.

Photo: Ana Esther Zulueta


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