NAPLES, FL -- The “Super” ghost orchid at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is now blooming. Ghost orchids (Dendrophylax lindenii) are rare flowering plants that rely on extremely sensitive, wetland habitats, and are only known to live in South Florida and Cuba.
“I love seeing the first ghost orchid blossom of summer for its beauty and hope,” says Sanctuary Director Lisa Korte, PhD. “This delicate, dancing, white flower shows that we are protecting Corkscrew Swamp in a manner that allows nature to thrive – we are lucky to have one of these amazing orchids visible from our boardwalk,” she added.
The “Super” ghost orchid, one of several on record at the Sanctuary, was discovered in July 2007. It typically returns to the spotlight each summer, although it has had blooms at other times of the year. As the largest ghost orchid ever discovered, its blossoms draw international attention.
Online tickets are recommended to visit the Sanctuary to see the orchid.
Ghost orchids are “epiphytes” - plants that cling to the surface of certain species of tree trunks and limbs. They receive all their food and water through the atmosphere or from the surface of their host tree but do no harm to their host. Ghost orchids have no actual leaves and throughout much of the year, the plants are barely visible. Once the blossoms drop off, only their roots remain. As soon as summer rains and humidity return to the forest, ghost orchids spring to life, producing multiple spikes, buds, and blossoms. Most of the blooms occur between June and October.
The “Super” ghost orchid at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is located about 70 feet off the ground on a bald cypress tree roughly 100 feet off the boardwalk. To see the blooms, orchid enthusiasts are encouraged to bring a spotting scope or binoculars, and a recommended lens length of 600 mm to get a good photograph.
The specific climate and ecology of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary make the growth of this rare orchid possible. Ghost orchids only grow in sub-tropical wetlands and are most common in remote swamps, where they are only easily seen when blooming. Threats to the orchids include poaching, loss and/or degradation of habitat, and climate change. Over the past several decades, human activities have significantly reduced the quantity and quality of wetland habitats across Florida. The future of ghost orchids depends on vigilant habitat protection and respecting and admiring this captivating species from a distance.