Exotic ‘Monkey Orchids’ Have Blooms That Look Like the Face of a Capuchin Monkey

Orchid that Looks Like a Monkey

Photo: Stock Photos from cotosa/Shutterstock

With anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 different species, orchids are one of the largest family of flowers on Earth. These unique plants have blooms that take on many different shapes and one species that grows in South America even looks like a monkey.

Dracula simia, also known as a monkey orchid, is native to southeastern Ecuador. Flourishing in the country's tropical highland forests, it's one of at least 10,000 types of orchids found in the tropics. Its long-tailed, reddish-brown flowers have a pair of dotted “eyes” that look remarkably like the face of a capuchin monkey, which makes it a sight to behold.

Besides their adorable looks, these monkey orchids are also quite fragrant. In fact, they smell like ripe oranges when in bloom. They can flower at any time of year and natively grow at around 6,500 feet. So if you want to catch a glimpse of them where they typically grow, prepare yourself for a hike.

The Dracula simia is just one of 118 species in the Dracula genus of orchids—many of which resemble monkeys. The genus got its name due to the rusty red color of several species. Though they are native to Central America and Peru, nearly half the genus can be found just in Ecuador.

These exotic flowers thrive in deep shade, love humidity, and, contrary to what you might think, prefer cold temperatures. However, if you want to take a stab at growing your own, it is possible to find vendors selling seeds online. But, before you take the plunge, please take note that cultivating these seeds isn't advised for orchid newcomers. Monkey orchid seeds are almost like dust and require specialized care in order to grow properly. And even when everything is done to perfection, it will take anywhere from three to eight years for the plant to reach blooming size.

If you feel that you have the know-how and can provide the proper environment, these are some Dracula orchids that are easier to grow: Dracula erythrocheateDracula bella, and Dracula cordobae. Just be sure to purchase seeds from a reputable dealer, as there are many scammers advertising monkey orchid seeds but are actually sending different species.

Dracula simia is a monkey orchid that grows in the tropical forests of Ecuador.

Orchid that Looks Like a Monkey

Photo: Stock Photos from Alexandre Laprise/Shutterstock

Monkey Orchid - Dracula Simia

Photo: Stock Photos from angela Meier/Shutterstock

Monkey Orchid - Dracula Simia

Photo: A.P. Sijm. Swiss Orchid Foundation at the Herbarium Jany Renz. Botanical Institute, University of Basel, Switzerland.

The orchid's flowers actually resemble the face of a capuchin monkey.

Orchid that Looks Like a Monkey

Photo: Stock Photos from Alexandre Laprise/Shutterstock

Monkey Orchid - Dracula Simia

Photo: A.P. Sijm. Swiss Orchid Foundation at the Herbarium Jany Renz. Botanical Institute, University of Basel, Switzerland.

Monkey Orchid - Dracula Simia

Photo: Dick Culbert via Wikipedia

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.

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