Rare Ghost Orchids Making A Comeback, Thanks To Florida Scientists

Aug 15, 2016

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

University of Florida scientists are trying to boost the populations of the legendary ghost orchid.
Credit NC Orchid via flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/ncorchid/

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.