Balboa's Orchid Garden

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One of the notable points of interest in Balboa that should not be overlooked by the flower lover is the Powell Orchid Garden, which is a branch of the Missouri Botanical Garden of St. Louis.  This beautiful garden is a bower of beauty, and here can be seen growing hundreds of varieties of orchids, all that are  native to Panama and many other lands.  Of particular interest are some of the native orchids, the Holy Ghost or Esperitu de Santo deserving special mention:  the history of which is enshrined in  much legendary lore dating from the arrival of the Spanish friars in the Fifteenth Century, who gave this strange flower the name "Holy Ghost" and taught the natives to regard it as sacred and symbolic of the white dove of the New Testament.  The flower is of an alabaster whiteness, in shape something like a magnolia, only smaller, and in the center, in exquisite purity with lowered pinions, rests the snow-white image of a dove so perfect in detail that it is a little short of startling.  So far Panama is the only place where this unusual orchid is found.

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El Espiritu Santo  (Dove Orchid)
Peristeria elata

National Flower of the Republic of Panama

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From:  Picturesque Panama by Jean Heald, 1928

Many of us growing up in the Canal Zone have fond memories of the path where the Orchid Garden was located.  A building used by the Garden became the Girl Scout Shack.  The path became a short cut to those walking home to Balboa Heights from Balboa Elementary School or Balboa High School.  The Shack is long gone, but the path is still there.  There are no remnants of the magnificent orchids that once were there.  Walking the path now, one is able to see several large stands of bamboo and a lot of tropical vegetation, all beautiful in its own way.  There is now a gate across the path up near the top of the hill which is locked, so it's no longer a shortcut to anywhere.  Also on the path are the ruins of what generations of Canal Zone youngsters called the "dungeon".

February 22, 2000

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