Monday, July 20, 2009

Corkscrew Ghost Orchid Update

As of today, there are nine flowers open with five buds on the way. Looks like the venerable "Super Ghost" is gearing up for quite a show! If you have the means at all to get to the Naples, Florida area, this is well worth the time and effort.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Corkscrew Swamp Ghost Is At It Again!!!!

The world-famous ghost orchid at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is beginning to bloom again! According to the Fort-Myers News-Press, the plant has two flowers showing and another ten buds developing. Below is a picture taken during its first known blooming in July of 2007. At the point this was taken, seven flowers remained on the plant:

This is the only ghost orchid where the location is made known widely to the public (all other plants are a closely guarded secret to prevent poaching), and going to see it doesn't involve getting wet, muddy, and overwhelmed with mosquito bites. When the ghost orchid is in bloom, volunteers place spotting scopes on the boardwalk pointed at the flowers, so they can be enjoyed as if they were up close.

Here is a link to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary web site:

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Website

Seeing one of these plants in the wild is an opportunity not to be missed!

Prem and family enjoying the ghost orchid at Corkscrew Swamp.

When we learned of this orchid back in 2007, we made the trek from the Orlando, Florida area down to the sanctuary just to the east of Naples. This was about a four-hour trip each way, but well worth the effort. We had visited the sanctuary on several occasions in the past and it has always been a favorite place for us. As you walk along the boardwalk from the visitor's center across the open pinelands and marshy area toward the swamp, it seems much like other boardwalks to other places you might experience. Soon you begin to penetrate the more open pond cypress swamp as you head further westward. Just about every branch is covered with species of bromeliads and the occasional orchid. Then you make the transition into the old-growth swamp and the sense of wonder becomes nearly overwhelming as you experience the old-growth cypress swamp. Large trees, festooned with every sort of epiphyte extend off into the distance, ringed around their bases with large ferns. Swamp lilies and hibiscus grow in the spaces between these, and smaller trees such as pond-apples and pop-ash form an understory that reaches to just overhead as you continue along the walk. It is like going back in time to a Florida that once was (as this type of ecosystem covered large tracts of our state at one time). It is also sad as you realize that most forests like this were logged as few as 50 years ago to pay for our "progress".

As you continue on with a profound sense of wonder tinged with sadness, you turn a corner to see a
tiny crowd of people clustered around a few spotting scopes. With your naked eye, you can barely make out a wisp of white against a large, three-headed cypress far off like a giant trident planted in the swamp. A view through some good binoculars makes it possible to see it a little closer, but the spotting scopes really bring the flowers into close focus, every leg, every spur visible in the mass of flowers on this venerable, old plant. Not only is this plant easily viewable by visitors, it holds the record for the most flowers open on a single plant (12 flowers open out of 15 buds total) and the most flowers for a season (26 flowers in all). It bloomed three times again in 2008 (9 flowers in July -- I could find no reports of the flower counts for other months). No doubt this plant fluctuates from year-to-year as conditions seem more or less favorable for its flowering.

To read more about the ghost orchid in general, visit my Ghost Orchid Page.

Enjoy! And get out there to the sanctuary to see this plant!

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