by Debbie Hughes, Estates Horticulturist
I was fortunate enough last weekend to visit the strange Ghost orchid at the Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, FL. The term “visit” usually describes catching up with an aunt or uncle, but this visit was more like a long lost friend. A Dendrophlax Lindenii, botanically speaking, is a rare orchid native to South Florida composed of roots (no leaves) and an odd-shaped white petaled bloom spike.
To view the ghost orchid one had to squint through a scope. The orchid was perched in its roost, 300 feet from the boardwalk, high in the sky in an unsuspecting 600 year old cypress tree. I couldn’t believe my eyes; the orchid really existed! My previous experience came up empty while hiking through the Fakahatchee Swamp in the Everglades years earlier. I also discovered oodles of orchids attached to pond apple trees within naked eye view while strolling on the boardwalk. Most people might not notice the orchids, mistaking them for tree parts. I wonder what fate native orchids have in South Florida, as the numbers have dwindled throughout the state and the world since people began collecting them and developing the lands on which they thrive.
Every week, we attach orchids into our mango trees and other appropriate trees at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in what we call “Orchid Lane”. Orchids were a favorite of Mina Edison; many horticulturists hunting the wilderness and friends worldwide sent her orchids. There was even talk of the Edisons’ and Fords’ camping forays into the swamps bringing orchids home to their gardens. The rough crevices of the bark make mango trees a perfect candidate for the orchid to establish a network of roots in. The canopy also provides protection from strong winds and direct sunlight.
Laelias, Cattleyas, Cyrtopodium, Dendrobiums, Phaleanopsis, Schomburgkia, Psychopsis, Dendrophylax, Epidendrum, Oncidium, Encyclias, Brassavola, Vanilla, and everything in between reside in the loving arms of our tropical jungle. We are a designated site for confiscated orchids through CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Since we receive many rare and not-so-rare orchids, we are able to provide a chance for the public to enjoy these beauties close up.
Each month an orchid will find a reason to bloom and continue the cycle of life. We have a Dendrobium that has bloomed continuously since I began work here in 2007. Just come by and walk around the property; you will be amazed at the fun you will have discovering our hidden wonders. During the year we offer an Orchid class for those who would like to learn about their care. Stay tuned for more info about our amazing orchids throughout the year!