Posted by Colin Heggie on Apr 06, 2021
Our orchid-loving Don Miller shared a National Geographic video https://youtu.be/B9IIrpOLJ14 describing south Florida’s “Ghost Orchid.”  There are thought to be 25-30,000 species of orchids, with the greatest diversity found in the south Florida swamps, which are among the wildest & most inaccessible parts of the country.  Ghost orchids have long slender white stems, but no leaves.  They have massive root systems wound around trees, & can survive up to 50 years.  However, the chances of pollination are slim, as they were thought to be dependent on a small population of Giant Sphinx moths.  In 2018, conservation photographers Carlton Ward & Mac Stone partnered with tropical ecologist Peter Houlihan, spending weeks with their sophisticated camera equipment in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, northeast of Naples, FL.  They captured incredible photos of ghost orchids, Giant Sphinx moths, & also Fig Sphinx moths.  Their findings now call into question who are the real pollinators of the orchids, raising the possibility that Giant Sphinx moths steal nectar from ghost orchids, whilst Fig Sphinx moths are the real pollinators.  The perseverance of these guys is incredible, as are their photos!