The elusive and extremely rare Ghost orchid ( dendrophylax lindenii ) is blooming early this year.  Other common names include Palm Polly and White Frog Orchid.  You can see from the video why it’s called it a frog orchid. The orchid was  formerly classified under Polyrrhiza but has recently been moved to the genus Dendrophylax.

The Ghost orchid usually blooms between June and August with it’s peak blooming time arriving in July, but this year it was found to be blooming three months early.  The bloom was discovered March 26th, this year. It’s interesting to note that just about everything has been three months early this year. Strange!

This orchid is native to SW Florid, Cuba, Haiti, and there are only around 1000 of them in the world.  They are known to exist in Fakahatchee Strand in Florida.  This blog has some great photos and informative information about the preserve http://seejournal.wordpress.com/ The orchids are also found in Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida.

Habitat loss from logging in Fakahatchee Strand, and the digging of canal systems throughout South Florida,  have reduced orchid numbers.  Even though these orchids are endangered in the wild, poachers are still tempted by the idea of theft ( remember the orchid thief movie and book, this orchid was the subject in the book ) which has contributed to further damage of the species. The sad thing is that ghost orchids rarely survive being transplanted.  Since the ghost orchid is not self pollinating, it depends on only one species of insect, the giant sphinx moth for pollination. It is the only insect with a long enough proboscis since the orchid has about a five inch throat.  Go here for some awesome photos and informative info on wild orchids of Florida if you are interested in reading more.  http://www.flnativeorchids.com/natives_gallery/dendrophylax_lindenii.htm

This was an interesting video of an attempt to catch the sphinx moth pollinating the orchid..I thought it was a hummingbird! I’ve watched it twice and I still think it was a bird.  Can you imagine the thrill of infrared photography, and sitting,  waiting just to see what shows up in the dark!  This couple also have an interesting site with lots of information about the ghost orchid.

If I didn’t fear snakes and alligators so much, I would certainly be taking a trip to Florida to check this out!  I spent a few weeks camping in Florida, close to a lake no less and it was one of creepiest things I’ve ever done.  So many gators and snakes, I found myself not able to really relax and enjoy it.  Maybe since a trip to find this orchid would be on a board walk,  I could handle the swamp. Actually the more I think about it, I’m liking the pictures on the web just fine! 🙂

http://www.ghostorchid.info/

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