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Rare Ghost Orchid Found in Naples, Fl. & Unique Bog Orchid in Yosemite Park

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Author Topic: Rare Ghost Orchid Found in Naples, Fl. & Unique Bog Orchid in Yosemite Park  (Read 460 times)
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« on: July 14, 2007, 11:38:12 am »



One of the most elusive orchids in Florida, the ghost orchid, grows without leaves on the trees of the Fakahatchee. Here you see the roots winding their way around a host tree. It will blossom without leaves.


The first Ghost Orchid was discovered in Cuba in 1844 by a Belgian named Jean Jules Linden. Fifty years later, the same orchid species was found in Florida’s Fakahatchee Strand, as well as the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp. Biologists believe seeds from ghost orchids and other tropical plants in South and Central America were carried across the ocean by air currents and migrating birds until they reached Florida. Within the U.S., the ghost orchid does not exist outside south Florida.

photo courtesy of: Daniel F. Austin, Ph.D. 

Aside from its rarity, the ghost orchid is unique in that it does not grow in soil, as do conventional plants. It is a species of leafless orchid that grows on trees. Exposed to the elements, the flat, green roots are no thicker than a pencil and wrap themselves around a tree.

Another unusual feature of the ghost orchid is that it does not have a stem or foliage, so when the plant is not in bloom, it consists solely of roots. Due to of its lack of foliage, the ghost orchid must use its roots for both water absorption and photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a complex process in which plants manufacture their own food. This is done by converting carbon dioxide into organic material, which is reduced to carbohydrates. Natural sunlight provides the plant with energy to complete this process.

Plants like the ghost orchid, which do not need soil to survive, are called epiphytes. Most epiphytes grow on other plants and, unlike parasites, epiphytes do not receive nutrients from the plants on which they grow. Epiphytes obtain moisture, carbon dioxide and other elements from the air.


The ghost orchid blooms just once a year, typically in June, July and August. While the orchid is in bloom, Florida's largest moth, the giant sphinx, pollinates the flower. This moth is vital to the survival of the ghost orchid because it is believed to be the only insect with a proboscis long enough to pollinate the ghost orchid. The moth’s soda-straw proboscis is a perfect fit for the flower’s four-to six-inch spur-nectary, which is located at the end of the orchid’s bottom spur.

Since the ghost orchid's roots blend so well with the tree bark, the striking white flower looks as if it is suspended in midair. The roots of this orchid, as with all epiphytic orchids, are designed for survival. The outer surface is called the velamen, and it protects the inner root tissues from water loss. The velamen also aids with water and mineral uptake.

In 1994, renegade plant dealer John Laroche was arrested for stealing three ghost orchids and a total of 94 orchid specimens. His plan was to make millions reproducing the orchid for the black market of rare orchids. Author Susan Orlean wrote in detail about this true story in her book "The Orchid Thief." And the movie "Adaptation" was based loosely on her book.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2007, 07:26:11 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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