The forests and grasslands flare with color. Begonias, anthuriums, “Indian laburnum,” oleander, and poinsettia are common, as are mimosa, hibiscus, blossoming hydrangea, bright-pink morning glory, and bougainvillea in its rainbow assortment of riotous colors. Trees such as the vermilion flame-of-the-forest, purple jacaranda, blue rosewood, and almost fluorescent yellow corteza amarilla all add their seasonal bouquet to the landscape.
Cuba’s national flower is the brilliant white, heady-scented mariposa, a native species of jasmine that became a symbol of rebellion and purity at the time of the Wars of Independence.
African golden trumpet is found everywhere. Water hyacinths, with their white and purple blooms, crowd freshwater lakes. Scarlet Cupid’s tears (lágrimas de Cupido) speckle green meadows. Fence posts cut from the piñon tree grow from a stick in the ground and burst into bright-pink efflorescent blossom. And jasmine, orange jubia d’oro, and azalea flank major thoroughfares and run down the central divides.
Cuba has several hundred known species of orchids, and countless others await discovery.At any time of year dozens of species are in bloom, from sea level to the highest reaches of the Sierra Maestra.
Poke around with magnifying glass in hand and you’ll come across species with flowers less than one millimeter across. Others have pendulous petals that can reach more than half a meter. Some flower for only one day. Others will last several weeks. The greatest diversity exists in humid mid-elevation environments, where they are abundant as tropical epiphytes, although not all orchids lead epiphytic lives.