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Rare ghost orchid in bloom at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

By Staff | Jul 13, 2009

A rare ghost orchid growing on an ancient bald cypress tree at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples is in bloom for the third consecutive summer, this time with 10 buds that will likely produce blooms visible from the Audubon sanctuary’s boardwalk through the end of July and perhaps well into August. Blooms are difficult to see with the naked eye, so binoculars are recommended.

The plant bloomed three times in the summer of 2007, the first time with 12 blossoms, the second time with 10 and the third time with three. Last year, it bloomed again three separate times. Area biologists have nicknamed this specimen the Super Ghost, since typically ghost orchids might have between one and three blossoms per year, if they bloom at all.

“People are fascinated by orchids, and the ghost orchid is one of the rarest specimens,” said Ed Carlson, executive director of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. “The appeal of the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary ghost orchid is that it is visible from our public boardwalk, and this particular plant has a history of displaying multiple flowers at once and blooming multiple times in succession, which gives people more of a chance to get to Naples and see it.”

For those interested in coming to see the ghost orchid, many Naples and Everglades City area hotels are offering special rates and packages especially for ghost orchid enthusiasts. For information about hotel and local restaurant deals especially for orchid lovers, visit the area Convention & Visitors Bureau’s special orchid deals Web page at www.paradisecoast.com/ghostorchid or call for information at 1-800-688-3600.

The ghost orchid (Polyrrhiza lindenii) is an extremely rare, epiphytic orchid that grows without leaves on the trunks of trees in a small concentrated area of Southwest Florida. The plants are usually only visible to intrepid adventurers who must hike through hip deep water in the area’s cypress, pop ash and pond apple sloughs to reach them. The ghost orchid, preyed upon by poachers, was the subject of bestselling author Susan Orlean’s book The Orchid Thief and the subsequent movie Adaptation.

Visitation to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Naples spiked during the bloom events in the summers of 2007 and 2008, with orchid lovers coming from across the country and the world. Weather permitting a scope will be set up on the boardwalk to view the orchid, or binocular rentals are available at the admissions desk. A new weather-resistant scope has been ordered and should be available by early August. Serious photographers should bring powerful telephoto lenses, as the plant is growing at a height of about 45 feet on the trunk of a bald cypress tree located 150 feet from the boardwalk.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is located just northeast of Naples, 15 miles from I-75 on Immokalee Road (Exit 111). Hours are 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. until Sept. 30 with the last guests admitted by 6:30 p.m. each day. Cost: Adults are $10; full-time college students with photo ID are $6; National Audubon Society members with ID cards are $5; students (6-18 years old) are $4; and children younger than 6 are free. Visitors are advised to call the sanctuary at 239-348-9151 for daily updates on the flower’s status.

The Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors bureau promotes Southwest Florida’s Paradise Coast as a visitor destination and is the official destination marketing agency for Collier County, Florida. For more information, visit www.ParadiseCoast.com or call 1-800-688-3600 for a free visitors guide.