by Chuck Nishihira
When I first found myself gravitating to pleurothallid orchids, it was the large-flowered Masdevallias that pulled me in. Here in the Cordillera del Condor of Ecaudor, I find myself sitting on the top of a ridge among all the mosses and ferns, and on a twig closer to the ground than I would have imagined, is a tiny plant of Masdevallia deformis. A bright red orange lantern of a flower dangling like a marker for the plant being smothered by the moss.
Tucked into the shadows, a plant of Masdevallia bangii grew a few inches away. Tiny, charming flowers catching a little light. I have seen this species in collections many times, as it is widespread not only in latitude, but also in elevation. It’s beautiful presence added to the mixture of tininess without taking over the scene. In that moment kneeling on the ground, my understanding disciplined by the viewfinder, I now understand why it is my appreciation for these less flamboyant species has grown so much.