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Rare Ghost Orchids Making A Comeback, Thanks To Florida Scientists

NC Orchid via flickr

The endangered ghost orchid is making a comeback in the Everglades, thanks to a team of Florida scientists.

The elusive blooms of the ghost orchid have long captured the imagination of Floridians. The book The Orchid Thief, and the film Adaptation, starring Meryl Streep and Nicholas Cage, cemented the popular appeal of the rare flower. But scientists know the ghost orchid as a sort of canary in the ecological coal mine. Here's University of Florida professor Michael Kane.

“They’re very sensitive to change in the environment, whether it’s climate change, or the impact of human activity, pesticides, what have you,” he said.

Kane, along with Larry Zettler of Illinois College have been able to grow the notoriously sensitive plants in a laboratory setting. Now Kane's team is trying to revitalize the wild ghost orchid population by transplanting them onto trees in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. The ongoing project is the first of its kind, and Kane is pleased with the results.

“A year ago June, we put out 80 ghost orchids back at the National Wildlife Refuge. We have extremely high survival, over 80%. And they’re growing quite well after a year,” he said.

There are an estimated 2,000 ghost orchids in the wild in South Florida. Apart from climate change and pollinator loss, one of the biggest threats to the plants are poachers.

As a Tallahassee native, Kate Payne grew up listening to WFSU. She loves being part of a station that had such an impact on her. Kate is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. With a background in documentary and narrative filmmaking, Kate has a broad range of multimedia experience. When she’s not working, you can find her rock climbing, cooking or hanging out with her cat.