A very rare and delicate orchid is finding its way home thanks to researchers and scientists. The endangered ghost orchid has seen a crippling population decline due to environmental changes, development, and poaching in past decades. Thanks to Professor Mike Kane and a team of botanists, this once-plentiful species has a second chance to thrive in its native environment.
The Florida Everglades are home to many unique and rare plants. This humid, tropical environment provides the special growing conditions that orchids require in order to populate. The ghost orchid, a plant that grows wild in South Florida and Cuba, is making a comeback as teams from the University of Florida work tirelessly to cultivate healthy orchids from seeds.
Once the orchid is no longer a seedling and is healthy and strong, a team of botanists wade through the swamp to transplant each specimen in a secluded part of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. Orchids are known as “air plants,” and they grow attached to a host, such as cypress, pop ash, and pond apple trees. Dr. Kane and his team transplant each burlap-wrapped orchid onto these trees, give them a light misting, and allow nature to run its course.
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Most of these delicate plants continue to grow, although some do not. The ghost orchid has a single known pollinator, the giant sphinx moth. This unique moth makes nightly flights around the orchids to drink their nectar and transfer their pollen. The ghost orchid is not a reliable bloomer, but Dr. Kane and his team have had some success encouraging blooms from this finicky plant in lab settings.
The Florida Everglades were once home to countless exotic flower species, and this extraordinary ecosystem could enjoy a resurgence of ghost orchids if conservation efforts continue.Whizzco