Friday, 13 November 2015

In pursuit of lost orchids


Florida hosts a treasure trove of orchids, especially state park Fakahatchee Strand Preserve. Now scientists there are keen to restore certain species lost through the years as a result of poachers and habitat destruction.

The allure of  so-called 'lost orchids' never dies (see below).

The park is located on a shallow swamp, marked by tall cypress trees. Orchid thieves are common, especially where cowhorn orchid are concerned. Over the past ten years, and in working in partnership with the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Fakahatchee scientists have harvested seeds and re-cultivated cowhorn orchids for replanting throughout the swamp.

The spectacular cowhorn, with its hundreds of dotted flowers, was down to just 17 orchids in the 85,000-acre park. Ten years on, there are several hundred. A similar success was had with the dollar orchid, another endangered species.

Sadly, two other orchids are lost to Florida in general, namely the rat-tail orchid and another known only by its scientific name, Epidendrum acunae.

Much time and effort and energy has been spent seeking these lost orchids, but it seems they are locally extinct, according to local reports.

In a bid to restore the lost orchids to Fakahatchee, scientists turned to Cuba, just 200 miles away and asked for help.

The botanical garden possessed both species and are now helping to restore the ‘lost orchids’ to Florida.

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The Lost Orchid by Pamela Kelt is available on Amazon.