In the remote region of Inírida, Colombia, a remarkable flower known as the Flor de Inírida, also known as the Stella Flower, is making a significant impact. Cultivated with Indigenous knowledge and expertise, this rare and little-known flower is not only transforming lives but also contributing to conservation efforts and offering potential bioremediation solutions for contaminated soil.
The Inírida Flower
The Inírida flower, also called flor de Inírida, or Stella flower grows in a small area along the Colombian-Venezuelan border. It was once picked directly from the wild, but thanks to a successful process of domestication, its long-term preservation is now ensured. This process has not only safeguarded the flower but has also had positive implications for the conservation of other species in the region.
Carolina Mora Gaitan and her family, members of Colombia's Sikuani Indigenous group, have been involved in the Inírida flower trade for over a decade. The trade has evolved from gathering flowers in the wild to cultivating them in a sustainable manner. This shift has brought about economic opportunities for Indigenous families, contributing to the region's green economy.
The Inírida Flower Is a Winter and Summer Flower
The Inírida Winter flower, scientifically known as Guacamaya superba, blooms during Guainía's long rainy season, while the smaller Inírida Summer flower, or Schoenocephalium teretifolium, thrives throughout the rest of the year. These flowers are often referred to as "everlasting flowers" due to their ability to withstand extreme weather conditions and retain their physical shape long after their vibrant colors have faded.
Carolina's journey to cultivating the Inírida flower began when she met Martha Toledo, a teacher and founder of Akayú, a not-for-profit organization focused on sustainable development and education. Together, they initiated a recycling scheme that generated modest revenues for families while addressing the town's plastic waste problem. However, they soon realized the untapped potential of the Inírida flower as a means to further their goals.
The Inírida Flower, a.k.a. the Stellar Flower Is a Commercial Success
Working with the environmental government agency Corporation for the Sustainable Development of the Northern and Eastern Amazon (CDA), Toledo obtained a license to sell the Inírida flower. This presented an opportunity to showcase the region's productivity and bring attention to Inírida and its namesake flower. The flowers are sold through LIWI, the commercial arm of Akayú.
The Flor de Inírida proved to be a popular commodity, attracting orders from major cities across the country and even gaining international interest. The success of the flower trade has involved many families, from planting and harvesting to preparation for sale.
To ensure the long-term sustainability of the Inírida flower, Cariana, Toledo's husband and a Curripaco community leader, combined ancestral knowledge with scientific theory. Through a series of experiments, they discovered the best methods for cultivation. By spacing out cuttings from lateral shoots in a raised bed and implementing a tailored watering regime, they achieved remarkable results, with a mortality rate of less than 1% in their dedicated nursery.
Inírida Flower Flourishes in the World's Oldest Rock Formations
The Inírida flower flourishes in the shadow of the Cerros de Mavecure, one of the world's oldest rock formations and a biodiversity hotspot. These hills provide a unique environment for the flower, which finds refuge in the fine white sand savannas of the Estrella Fluvial Ramsar site, one of the most biologically important wetlands on the planet.
Research conducted by Mateo Fernández Lucero and colleagues revealed that the Inírida flower has a natural capacity to extract high levels of aluminum, making it a potential solution for bioremediation and decontamination of soils affected by this metal. Furthermore, the conservation of the Flor de Inírida indirectly protects other species and contributes to the restoration of degraded areas.
Through the commercialization of the Inírida flower, Indigenous families in the region have experienced transformative changes in their lives. The flower trade provides an alternative source of income, empowering communities and supporting education for their children. By showcasing the untapped potential of Guainía and promoting sustainable practices, the Inírida flower represents a greener and more prosperous future for the region.