The Mystique of the Ghost Orchid!
The ghost orchid is an intriguing and elusive species of the orchid family, found primarily in exotic locations in Southern Florida. Originally, discovered in nearby Cuba in the mid 1800's, the first orchid was found in 1880, in Collier County, Florida.
There is a haunting magical aura about this enchanting species of orchids. Consider yourself very fortunate if you ever have the opportunity to see one of these stunningly beautiful orchids!
Although it's difficult to determine how many ghost orchids presently exist in Florida's swamps, it's estimated there's about 1200 plants. They are considered both a threatened and endangered species in the state of Florida.
The Location of Orchid Blooms
Of particular interest to Naples Florida visitors, are the ghost orchid blooms in surrounding areas such as the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park(325 plants), Big Cypress National Preserve(800 plants) and a few at the Corkscrew Swamp.
The locations of these wonderful, rare blooms have been fairly secretive over the years. However, due to the discovery of the Super Ghost bloom in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, the location of these blooms are no longer a secret!
Appearance and Scent of the Blooms
The orchid grows primarily on tree trunks, particularly those that harbor 'moss' growth.
The bloom of the orchid is very unique. The milky white flower has quite a spikey appearance. They normally bloom for about 3 weeks, from April through August.
Although the plant can have many blooms, most only produce one. They emit a distinct dusky odor in the evening, which is thought to attract the moth that ensures the preservation of the plant!
The Super Ghost
In 2007, a very large bloom was sighted in the well-known swamp, near Naples FL. It was tagged the 'Super Ghost', due to it's unusual height of about 4 feet+ and the fact that it produced '11 blooms'!
Why is the Ghost Orchid Rare?
- The Difficult Pollination Process
Here's where the 'uniqueness' and intrigue of this plant shines. Of these 2000 or so plants, only about 5 to 10% of them actually bloom.
A particular species of moth, the 'giant sphinx moth', seems to be the 'sole pollinator' of this species of orchids, as it seems to be the only insect in the area with a tongue long enough to reach the nectar of the flower!
Of the very few plants that bloom, this moth pollinates less than 10% of the plants!
There's been no scientific proof of just how these moths find other blooming orchids, but it is believed that the odor emitted by these rare orchids, actually attracts the moths to the blooms!
- Cold Weather & Man's Invasion of South Florida
It seems as though these orchid plants have always been somewhat rare, but it is thought that many of them were frozen during a cold spell, sometime in the late '70's.
Although a cyclic freeze every so often is expected in the southern part of Florida,
the invasion of man, re: the intense trenching of canals which caused water levels to subside. This process had an adverse affect on the habitat of the orchid. The lower water levels exposed the Ghost Orchids to the cold and knocked out many of the plants.
- Poachers and Collectors
The numbers of orchids has also diminished by the harvesting by scientists and illegal poaches, even though the orchids cannot survive outside their native humid swamp habitat.
Should you be in the Southwest Florida during the blooming season of the orchid, do take the time to visit to view the gorgeous blooms in their natural habitat, in all their splendor!
The mystery novel by D.K. Christi, The Ghost Orchid, set in the CorkscrewSwamp near Naples, is a 'delightful read'. It's an intriguing novel set in an exotic location that exemplifies the haunting, magic and mystique associated with the extraordinary bloom of this orchid!
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