Th Black Orchid,(Prosthechea cochleta), also commonly referred to as the Cockleshell or Clamshell Orchid, is not actually black at all. Rather, this unique orchid is dark blue with dark purple veins, making it appear black when hiding in the forest canopy.
The Black Orchid used to have 3 different latin names: Encyclia cochleata, Anacheilium cochleatum, and Epidendrum cochleatum, now that’s a lot of names to remember!, and it’s sure to be a trick question on Final Jeopardy some day…
The Black Orchid is the national flower of Belize, and protected in all forests under Belize’s membership of CITES, an international agreement to protect plant and animal species in danger of extinction through international trade. It is illegal to remove orchids from the country of Belize without permit. The only ethical way to collect orchids in Belize is to scavenge them from fallen branches. Luckily, the Black Orchid is commonly cultivated internationally, but make sure to ask where it comes from before you purchase!
If you’re dying to see one, and are in Belize, look for them in front of the Xunantunich welcome center.