Orchids of Tropical America: An Introduction and Guide

This new book, the first of its kind, introduces experts and novices to Central and South America's most spectacular orchids. The easy-to-use identification system permits quick recognition of more than 120 prominent genera. Genus descriptions are written in plain language, avoiding technical jargon, and are packed with stories about the ecology, uses and history of each group. Nature reserves from Mexico to Brazil are highlighted, where visitors can enjoy orchids in the wild. Whether you travel to see these unique plants, raise them in your home, or admire them from afar, this guide offers new insight into the diversity and history of orchids

Published by Cornell University Press / Comstock. Available now from Amazon, Powell's Books, and local booksellers.

Orchids of Tropical America:  Features

Covers 122 of the most eyecatching and widespread orchid groups, from the Bahamas to Brazil

Easy to use identification system allows rapid recognition of almost any orchid flower

Clear and engaging language, without obscure botanical terminology

Over 480 stunning photographs from some of the country's best orchid photographers

Invaluable as a field guide for orchid tourists visiting tropical America - over 100 reserves and parks featured

Entertaining and useful as an introduction for newcomers to the world of orchids

Replete with rich accounts of the ecology, medicinal uses and history of each group


Dr. Joe Meisel is vice president of the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation, and has worked for over 20 years in Latin America conducting research, teaching field ecology, and working with local landowners and communities to protect orchid habitat.

Joe Meisel

Dr. Ron Kaufmann is a professor at the University of San Diego, a long-time orchid grower, founding member of the Orchid Conservation Alliance and chair of the San Diego County Orchid Society's Conservation Committee.

Dr. Franco Pupulin is the orchid curator of the Lankester Botanical Garden in Costa Rica, editor-in-chief of Lankesteriana, and frequent contributor to scientific journals on the subject of orchid taxonomy.

Contact Info

Cornell University Press

Book website
2014 Catalog description


Orchids of Tropical America cover

"Provides an easily accessible and finely illustrated beginner's guide to the fascinating morphology, diversity, ecology and conservation of orchids. You could not find a better trio of enthusiasts and specialists to introduce you to the wonderful and occasionally bizarre world of tropical American orchids"

-from the Foreword by Phil Cribb



  • Introduction
  • Foreword by Dr. Phil Cribb
  • Introduction to the guide
  • Orchid Diversity, Ecology & Conservation
  • Introduction to orchid biology and ecology
  • Why are orchids so diverse?
  • Fooling flies, duping lovers & other ecological tales
  • Collectors & bandits, a history of orchids and the people that pursued them
  • Threats and conservation:  what is being done to save orchids?
  • Rapid Identification Guide
  • Illustrated glossary of key orchid characteristics
  • How to identify orchid groups
  • Easy-to-use orchid identification system
  • Field Guide and Genus Descriptions
  • Detailed description of 122 genera, from stem to sepal
  • How to distinguish from similar orchids
  • Distribution & diversity, preferred habitat type and elevation
  • Biological stories, ecological oddities, medicinal uses, human history & other wild tales
  • Photographs of the most commonly seen & ecologically important species
  • Where to See Orchids
  • Orchid-centered reserves in over 20 Central & South America and Caribbean countries
  • Orchid Resources
  • Links to online sites for orchid identifcation, care and purchase
  • Extensive bibliography of orchid literature

Sample Genus Accounts


For more information, please contact the author. To order, visit Amazon, Powell's Books, Cornell University Press, or local booksellers.