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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 683 times)
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« on: July 11, 2007, 06:50:26 pm »

FROM: Yahoo News

                                          RARE GHOST ORCHID FOUND IN FLORIDA PRESERVE


July 11, 2007
NAPLES, Fla. - A rare ghost orchid has been found growing high in an old cypress tree in a southwest Florida nature preserve.

                                      POLYRRHIZA LINDENII - "The Ghost Orchid"

Two visitors looking for owls on Saturday spotted the endangered orchid growing about 45 feet off the ground in a tree at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples. The orchid, featured in the nonfiction book "The Orchid Thief" and the fictional movie spinoff "Adaptation," is about 150 feet from the sanctuary's boardwalk and can be seen only with binoculars and good lighting.

The orchid, which blooms for about two weeks, has nine flowers, triple the usual number. It is not clear how long this ghost orchid has been blooming.

Naples photographer Ralph Arwood spent hours waiting to get a shot of the rare blooms.

"They're very rare, and this one is unusual because it has so many flowers," Arwood said. "They're pretty impressive flowers, too, as big as your hand. It's nice to have it at Corkscrew. If it's here, it's safe."

Park Manager Ed Carlson said the orchid could have been in the tree for decades. It is the first ghost orchid discovered near the sanctuary boardwalk in 12 years.

"They're very rare, and this one is unusual because it has so many flowers," Arwood said. "They're pretty impressive flowers, too, as big as your hand. It's nice to have it at Corkscrew. If it's here, it's safe."

Park Manager Ed Carlson said the orchid could have been in the tree for decades. It is the first ghost orchid discovered near the sanctuary boardwalk in 12 years.

"It's got a big, old root mass on it," he said. "We've just never seen it before. I'm sure it's been blooming, but they bloom in June and July, and that's when cypress are leafed out. So, it's possible a cypress branch covered it up all those years and fell off in Hurricane Wilma. Who knows?"

« Last Edit: July 22, 2007, 10:37:33 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 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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« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2007, 06:40:30 pm »


By GARANCE BURKE, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jul 17, 6:29 AM ET
SAN FRANCISCO - A foul-smelling orchid that flourishes only in Yosemite National Park and was first collected in 1923 is a distinct species, scientists announced Monday after re-evaluating the flower.
Botanist Alison Colwell said the species' minute, tennis-ball yellow flowers weren't what first led her to it, but rather the smell of sweaty feet that the Yosemite bog-orchid emits to attract pollinators.

"I was out surveying clovers one afternoon, and I started smelling something. I was like, 'Eew, what's that?'" said Colwell, who works for the U.S. Geological Survey in El Portal. "It smelled like a horse corral on a hot afternoon."

The plant, which is the only known orchid species endemic to California's Sierra Nevada range, grows in spring-fed areas between 6,000 and 9,000 feet, Colwell said. All nine sites where the orchid has been spotted are in the park, some adjacent to areas popular among visitors, according to an article announcing the species' discovery published in Madrono, a journal of the California Botanical Society.

The species isn't likely to have any commercial value since its flowers are less than a quarter of an inch wide, but some orchid lovers were so enthused by the news they began planning cross-country trips to see its delicate summer blooms.

"This orchid might not be showy enough to get the masses lined up all the way from San Francisco to see it, but I'm leaving Sunday to go out there to photograph it," said wild orchid expert Paul Martin Brown, who planned to leave Acton, Maine, this weekend to include the orchid in his latest book.

Colwell, one of three scientists credited with the discovery, said the bog-orchid is thought to have persisted in the upland meadows south of Yosemite Valley, which nourished unique plant species because the area never froze under glacial cover.

At least seven other rare plant species have been found there, including the Yosemite onion, Yosemite woolly sunflower and Bolander's clover.

Park officials said they would not release details about where the plant was found because they were concerned visitors might love it to death.

"There's concern that it will get trampled," said ranger Adrienne Freeman. "It's a rare and precious resource that we want to protect."

A botanist named George Henry Grinnell first collected the Yosemite bog-orchid in 1923 and sent the dried, pressed flower to an herbarium that later gave its collections to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, Colwell said.

Ron Coleman, a visiting scientist at the garden, was combing through the collection one Friday morning in July 1993 when he found the original specimen on a herbarium sheet ringed with notes handwritten by Grinnell, who believed the flower was related to the green bog-orchid.

"It was just a little dry brown thing, but right away I saw several things about it didn't fit the pattern of any other orchid in California," Coleman said. "This discovery is not only personally satisfying but scientifically satisfying."

Coleman and his colleague Leon Glicenstein drove up to Yosemite the next day and rejoiced when they spotted the flowers in the fading light. They snapped a photograph and sent it to orchid expert Charles Sheviak, hoping he would confirm their suspicion that the plant was a unique species.

Sheviak, curator of Botany at the New York State Museum, concluded the orchid was related to an existent variety that grows in the Rocky Mountains, but botanists familiar with Yosemite remained curious.

After Colwell — in her first year on the job — caught a whiff of the flower and was drawn to it in 2003, she called her boss Peggy Moore. Together, they dug a plant from the meadow and sent it to Sheviak, who later revised his opinion.

The trio's publication July 3 announcing the Platanthera yosemitensis, the Yosemite bog-orchid's official name, made its status as a separate species official.

Lovers of orchids, the largest plant family in nature with some 30,000 species worldwide, prized the new specimen for its rarity.

"I am a total student of orchids and I am thrilled to hear about that," said Paul Gripp, an organizer of the Santa Barbara Orchid Estate's fair, which wrapped up last weekend. "If it's a new orchid, I love it."
« Last Edit: July 17, 2007, 07:28:21 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2007, 06:53:49 pm »

« Last Edit: July 17, 2007, 07:27:11 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2007, 07:31:29 pm »


Released: 7/16/2007 11:21:08 AM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192 Peggy  Moore -
Phone: (209) 379-1309

Adrienne Freeman -
Phone: (209) 372-0529

Joanne Guilmette -
Phone: (518) 474-8730

An orchid so elusive, 70 years elapsed after George Henry Grinnell collected the first specimens in 1923 before a new generation of botanists rediscovered its location in 1993. But the plant's identity remained a challenge to taxonomists. Now, two U.S. Geological Survey botanists and a colleague at the New York State Museum have identified the orchid as a new species, the Yosemite bog-orchid (Platanthera yosemitensis), according to a recent publication in the journal of the California Botanical Society, Madroño.

"The Yosemite bog-orchid is an example of how both historic and contemporary plant specimens can serve to inform scientists and managers about the biological diversity of natural reserves," said Peggy Moore, a USGS plant ecologist in El Portal, Calif., and one of the botanists who identified the orchid.

A botanical mystery sparked work by Moore and fellow USGS botanist Alison Colwell - they had noticed the anomalous distribution in the plant guide Flora of North America of a southern Rockies bog-orchid that was also reported from Yosemite National Park in California. Colwell and Moore are scientists and co-workers with the USGS Western Ecological Research Center and both are conducting research to support the science needs of the National Park Service.

Beginning in 2003, and building on the efforts of previous botanists involved in the search for this mysterious orchid, Colwell and Moore relocated the site where others had collected the orchid, mapped additional sites where they discovered it growing, and searched several plant collections (herbaria) to examine bog-orchid specimens. Then, in consultation with Dr. Charles Sheviak, Curator of Botany at the New York State Museum, they determined the orchid was a new, undescribed species.

"This group of orchids constitutes a notoriously complex problem, and it's only now after nearly 2 centuries of study that we are beginning to understand what the species are," said Sheviak, an authority on the group. "I've been studying it for 40 years and have described other new species of Platanthera, so I'm used to being surprised. However, to find such a strikingly distinctive plant in such a well-known locality is truly astonishing. The fact that it appears to be confined to such a small geographic area is furthermore unique among related species."

Yosemite bog-orchid is known currently from only nine sites within Yosemite National Park, all on the granitic upland south of Yosemite Valley, between the main stem and the South Fork of the Merced River. As the orchid's range is understood currently, it is the only orchid species endemic to the Sierra Nevada of California.

"The extreme small size of several of the populations puts them at risk of extirpation," said Dr. Niki Nicholas, Chief of Resources Management and Science at Yosemite. "Sensitive habitat as well as a delicate root system highlights conservation issues associated with this species."

With an inconspicuous wand-like growth form and tiny flowers, the plant can be easy to miss in meadows densely crowded with a wide variety of plants, including other kinds of bog-orchids. Taxonomists use several technical features to help distinguish Yosemite bog-orchid from other bog-orchids, including what a discerning nose might call its bouquet. Yosemite bog-orchids have a strong musk component that, according to the authors, has been likened by various observers to a "corral of horses, asafetida, strong cheese, human feet, sweaty clothing, or simply disagreeable." The Yosemite bog-orchid may use this scent to attract mosquitoes or flies for pollination purposes.

Yosemite bog-orchid also keeps company with other endemics in the upland area south of Yosemite Valley, the authors noted. This area, largely free of ice during the most recent glacial events in the last two million years, contains at least seven species of plants known only from the central and southern Sierra Nevada. These include Yosemite onion, Yosemite woolly sunflower, short-leaved hulsea, Yosemite ivesia, and Bolander's clover.

"What a delight to find that, in the 21st century, such gems await discovery, or, in this case, re-discovery, practically in our own backyard," said Colwell, a USGS botanist in El Portal, Calif. "Doubtless more such finds await us."

This work was made possible by the National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Program.

The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage.

The New York State Museum in Albany, N.Y. is a cultural program of the New York State Education Department. Founded in 1836, the museum has the longest continuously operating state natural history research and collection survey in the U.S. Further information can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the museum website.
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