Ghost orchid blooms at the Turtle Farm

| 03/05/2012

ghost orchid2.jpg(CNS): One of the world’s rarest flowers, the mysterious Ghost Orchid, is in bloom at the Cayman Turtle Farm, officials announced in a release Wednesday. Grand Cayman's Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax fawcetti) is a rare, endangered and endemic native plant. The flower is a small to medium, pale cream-coloured blossom, but still subtly beautiful- especially against a leafy background. This particular orchid is often very difficult to cultivate outside of its natural habitat. The farm has two which were donated by the Orchid Society in late 2006 having been rescued from clearing work going on at the Ironwood Forest in George Town. The orchids were re-attached to two trees growing in the Blue Hole natural trial and two years later began blooming.

After being dormant for almost two years, the first of the Turtle Farm’s Ghost Orchids bloomed in early 2008 and since then, both orchids have bloomed each year in late April or early May.

The Ghost Orchid is a unique flower, as the single pale blossom grows from a strange-looking epiphyte that more resembles a creeping vine or some sort of root system embedded in the bark of a tree, rather than an actual plant or what most people perceive an orchid plant to look like. It often seems to be suspended in mid-air, hence the name “Ghost Orchid.”

“This unique form makes the Ghost Orchid difficult to locate in the wild among the leaves, branches and vines of their arboreal woodland habitat. It is a unique and exciting natural phenomenon to observe on the Blue Hole Nature Trail,” said Geddes Hislop, who is the Curator -Terrestrial Exhibits & Education Programmes at the Cayman Turtle Farm: Island Wildlife Encounter.

The Ghost Orchid’s bloom will usually last for about two weeks. It is suspected that the flower is pollinated by a large nocturnal sphinx moth that uses its long proboscis to reach into the deep flower to feed on its nectar. This orchid is a distant relative of the African and Indian Ocean genus Angraecum. Botanists theorise that orchid seeds, blowing like dust, crossed the Atlantic at least once and successfully colonised new habitat.

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Category: Science and Nature

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