Nestled within the expansive space of Quito’s quintessential city park, Parque Carolina, sits an oasis of magnificent biodiversity at the Jardín Botánico de Quito. This little gem of a garden offers a glimpse into the awe-inspiring biodiversity of Ecuador.
Ecuador offers some of the greatest biodiversity in the world for its size – including a whopping 16% of all bird species on Earth! Everywhere you travel is a new biome or micro-climate offering new flora and fauna to observe. Obviously most people flock to the Galapagos to marvel at the endemic species that led Darwin to crystallise his thoughts on evolution. However the rainforest areas in the east of the country offer a dizzying array of diversity hotspots.
Yasuni National Park, for example, is widely considered one of the most diverse locations in the world – certainly for its size. The numbers are hard to comprehend, but it has more amphibians than the US and Canada combined, it has one-third of all bird species in the Amazon River basin, and a phenomenal 100,000 insect species! All that in just one part of the Amazon region.
The Andes spine of the country would seemingly offer less variety, but with the paramo regions above 4,000 metres, lush river valleys, and pockets of cloud forests along both cordilleras, there are wonderful little areas to explore and a plethora of plant life. Overall there are about seven biomes in Ecuador across four microclimates, making each different region a unique experience.
For anyone who doesn’t have time to properly explore this ecological powerhouse, the Botanic Garden in Quito is a good place to get a snippet of the diversity. They have done a great job of bringing in plant and tree species from the different biomes – even though the altitude and climate in Quito does not naturally support all these species. You can wander through the towering trees of the Amazon region and explore the diversity of the cloud forests within mere metres.
One of the truly impressive areas of the gardens is the orchid house. Orchids are prolific here in Ecuador with over 4,000 classified species of orchid in Ecuador, including over 1,700 endemic to this magnificently diverse country. The variety of these elegant flowers is stunning to behold. We really needed our botanist friend and flower expert Stacy to come with us and help us to identify and marvel over these extraordinarily beautiful species.
You could spend a lifetime exploring every nook and cranny of Ecuador and not see every plant and animal on offer. So the next time you are wandering through Quito on a short trip, make a stop at this lovely little ecological oasis to better appreciate the explosive diversity of this country.