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Ghost Orchids

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Among the most rare and spectacular orchids here in the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve are the Ghost Orchids. There are roughly 250 of these plants in Fakahatchee Strand, of which about 150 are known to bloom.

The ghost orchid was made famous by the book "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orleans, and the subsequent movie "Adaptation" starring Nicholas Cage, loosely based on the book. Don't bother with the movie because it is really stupid. I rented the movie once, and couldn't stand it because it was full of so many myths, misconceptions, and downright lies about the park service and Seminole Indians.

I don't have an image of a ghost orchid myself, but if you google images about it, you will see plenty.

Ghost Orchids bloom for about a week, between June and August. In the past few years they have had several swamp walks in Fakahatchee to visit them. Here is a photo of a swamp walk I attended in November 2003, from the Fakahatchee web page.

Unfortunately poachers have hit a few ghosts in the past few years, so we might not have any swamp walks this year. It is sad that some people remove something from its native environment. The problem is that the ghost orchids they remove cannot survive outside Fakahatchee and will die in a year or two. Fakahatchee has become such an isolated area that the plants have been specifically adapted to only survive there and nowhere else. Whatever environmental factors exist that they have adjusted too, and will die when removed from there.

Mike Owen has been keeping track of the ghosts for about 16 years. We know so very little about them. We don't know how long the plants live, or how many years it takes for them to bloom. When a plant is cut off the tree and stolen, all the data and scientific information we are gather on that plant ends. And no one else is doing any research on the ghosts in their natural environment--there are no other places in the world they exist like in Fakahatchee. So when a plant is removed, it will not only kill the plant, but become a setback on research of the ghost orchid.
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