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The Illusive Ghost Orchid And Other Endangered Florida Orchids

Environmental groups are calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to place the rare ghost orchid under the protection of the Endangered Species Act and officially designate its habitat in southern Florida as critical to its recovery.

[The Ghost Orchid, Dendrophylax Lindenii, photo by Thomas Kuligowski]

The illusive ghost orchid, Dendrophylax Lindenii, faces mounting threats in Florida from poaching, loss of habitat, and climate change, and needs federal protection according to a petition filed recently by the Institute for Regional Conservation, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the National Parks Conservation Association. The conservation groups estimate there are only about 1,500 ghost orchids remaining in Florida where their population is down by 90%. 

If so designated, the ghost orchid would be the first Florida native orchid to be federally listed as endangered or threatened.

[Prosthechea cochleata photo by Thomas Kuligowski]

Most Florida native orchid species are already state-listed as threatened or endangered and are illegal to collect in the wild. There are approximately 100 Florida native orchids genera, but only 11 are found in Broward County. Conservationists fear all Florida native orchids face the possibility of extinction due to habitat loss, climate change and poaching, if conservation and recovery plans are not instituted. 

[Prosthechea cochleata var. alba photo by Thomas Kuligowski]

Flamingo Gardens, along with the help of the Flamingo Gardens Orchidteer volunteer group, has been working hard to establish colonies of native orchids throughout the hardwood hammocks and wetland areas of the Gardens. The Orchidteers and staff have mounted more than twelve hundred plants of various native orchid species such as the night fragrant Epidendrum nocturnum; the Florida butterfly orchid Encyclia tampensis; the Florida silver dollar orchid Prosthechea boothiana; and Sacoila lanceolata, commonly known as the leafless beaked orchid. We have partnered with Pine Island Jog Environmental Center on the Florida Native Orchid Revitalization Area (FLORA) project (part of the Million Orchid Project) to help enhance and restore native orchid populations at Flamingo Gardens. 

[Encyclia tampensis photo by Thomas Kuligowski]

With the help of the Orchidteers volunteer group, Flamingo Gardens’ native orchid conservation programs ensure the continuation of native orchid species in the gardens; and orchid educational programs help instill a deeper love and appreciation for orchids for all those who visit. Under the watchful eyes of the Orchidteers, orchids are tagged and logged at installation, providing a detailed reference summary as the collection evolves.

[Prosthechea boothiana photo by Thomas Kuligowski]

You can learn more about Florida native orchids and Flamingo Gardens’ conservation efforts at the upcoming Beauty of Orchids exhibit from March 19 to May 9, 2022. The exhibit will feature over one thousand orchids in bloom in floral displays throughout the Gardens alongside the orchid photographs of Tom Kuligowski. Weekly orchid classes, orchid sales, and tours will accompany the exhibit. Visit for more information and schedule.

[Prosthechea boothiana photo by Thomas Kuligowski]

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