Two visitors looking for owls on Saturday spotted the endangered orchid growing about 45 feet off the ground in a tree at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples. The orchid, featured in the nonfiction book “The Orchid Thief” and the fictional movie spinoff “Adaptation,” is about 150 feet from the sanctuary’s boardwalk and can be seen only with binoculars and good lighting.The orchid, which blooms for about two weeks, has nine flowers, triple the usual number. It is not clear how long this ghost orchid has been blooming.
The Ghost orchid is an epiphyte ( air plant ) which roots itself on trees in the Florida everglades. They are very rare and an endangered species. The orchid has no stem and the leaves are no more than scales on the roots. It blooms late summer with 1 to 10 blossoms but more than one or two blooms is uncommon. The flower is about as large as your hand. Normally they are found about 20′ up a tree. This one was found over 100′ high by some bird watchers looking for owls. The tree on which it is growing is about 500 years old.
The only insect able to pollinate this orchid is the giant sphinx moth.