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 Wildlife and landscape
photography by Art Wolfe

Miltonia roezlii 'Panama'

Miltonia schroederiana

Pleurothallis allenii

Miltonia warscewiczii
'Panama Form'

 I'm staying in a cabin in El Parque Internacional de La Amistad, established and maintained by Costa Rica and Panama and declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. One of the largest parks in the world, it is a land of magnificent mountains, the headwaters of eleven major rivers and an incredible diversity of climate, plants and animals.

One day walking with my guide Robinson on the trails near the cabin, we came upon a tree that had fallen. It was covered with epiphytes — bromeliads, ferns, mosses, gesneriads, aroids and many orchids. There were maxillaria, masdevallia, lepanthes and other pleurothallids — many wonderful miniatures. What a vivid example of the complexity of life in the treetops.

Robinson and I walked to Boquete on El Sendero de Los Quetzales. It was so beautiful in the cool mist and rain. We made our way up and over mountains, through primary forest, seeing lots of orchids in the immense trees. Of course they are all high in the canopy except where branches have fallen.

Robinson knows the animals, many of the plants and can identify the birds from their songs. On his own he grows native trees and plants them in abandoned homesteads in the park. How encouraging to see this young man's devotion to the forest.

Ever changing, always beautiful vistas of peaks, valleys and rivers flowing fresh and clear. We crossed many streams, sometimes balancing on tree trunks, sometimes stepping stone to stone. Once I stopped to examine a stunning clump of pleurothallis with red flowers. When I looked up, there on a nearby tree was a Resplendent Quetzal examining me! Later we passed a woman and child wearing long applique dresses — they looked like colorful birds against the dark forest.

Sitting outside the cabin watching hummingbirds just before sunset — the forest comes alive. So many different birds — one sitting on a maxillaria stem — there a bluebird the color of a Morpho — others yellow, white, green, red flashing in the trees.

After dark I walked outside and saw a magical scene — the forest twinkling with a million fireflies. From the tops of the trees, in the valleys far and near, twinkling lights, together with the sound of rushing water, a few frogs and clear crisp air. The purity of this life brought tears to my eyes. I remember a friend asking me why I was going to Panama and I thought — for this moment!

— Kathy Klett


Encyclia cordigera var. semi-alba

Pleurothallis sanchoi

Maxillaria lankesteri

Gongora tricolor.

Oerstedella exasperata

The Panamanian Golden Frog, Atelopus zeteki, may now be extinct. Its Costa Rican cousins have already disappeared. Habitat loss, the illegal pet trade and a mysterious disease have contributed to this catastrophe.

The dense sounds of the forest are amazing. Both at the Canopy Tower and at Barro Colorado Island, the sounds are overwhelming — many different bird calls, layers of insect sounds and in all directions the deep roar of Howler monkeys.

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