Check out the recent find at a Florida nature preserve:
Photo courtesy of Clyde Butcher via the Sierra Club.
At the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Fla., birdwatchers spotted a rare ghost orchid (Polyrrhiza lindenii) twined 45 feet high from the ground in the branches of a cypress tree. Sporting 9 blossoms, the orchid is thought to be decades old because of its height and the size of its root mass.
The ghost orchid is only found–and then only rarely–in Florida, the Bahamas, and Cuba. Considered an endangered species, it’s one of those plants that has proven difficult to cultivate outside of its natural habitat. (Kind of like the pink lady slipper, also member of the orchid family.) In the U.S., it’s protected by Florida and federal endangered species protection laws.
The orchid doesn’t have a stem or leaves, only a long root system that twines around trees. The blossoms, which occur in July and August, come from spikes on the root mass. Because the root twines high in trees and the plant has no leaves, its white blossoms look like tiny suspended ghosts.