Orchid in 100 critical species

| 11/09/2012

ghost orchid2_1.jpg(CNS): The beautiful and hauntingly delicate ghost orchid, which is found only in the Cayman Islands, has been included on a list of 100 species around the world that are facing extinction. The new report on the world’s most threatened species, entitled "Priceless or Worthless?", which is a collaborative effort sponsored by a number of international conservation groups, examines what can be done to save the animals and plants that are most at risk.  It reveals that the ghost orchid is now confined to one square kilometre in what is known as the Ironwood Forest in George Town. The writers call on the Cayman government to enact protective legislation to save the flower before it is too late.

The news of the serious danger presented to this incredible and unique flower comes on the heels of news from researchers last week that the country’s national bird, the Cayman parrot, is also facing possible extinction in the next forty years. The ghost orchid, however, is likely facing an even shorter time line without intervention.

The report notes that the ghost orchid (Dendrophylax fawcettii) is found in this last “remaining fragment of old-growth forest” on Grand Cayman and is surrounded by urban development. The forest extends just 46 acres and the orchids are confined to an area of only six of those acres.

‘”The Cayman Islands currently lack the comprehensive conservation legislation necessary to establish national protected areas, and only five per cent is under the protection of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands,” the authors Jonathan E M Baillie and Ellen R Butcher note.

“With appropriate legislation, protection of the Ironwood Forest would be possible, either by purchase or through establishing management agreements with the private landowners. This would benefit the landowners by enabling them to maintain their land in its natural state, as they have done for generations. All that is required to enable this is the political will.”

The report is a collaborative effort supported by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Species Survival Commission and the Zoological Society, with the assistance of environmentalists, researchers and volunteers from all over the world.

Writing about the forest where the orchid is found, the authors say that habitat destruction due to infrastructure development is the cause of the species decline. They also note that preserving this forest would not only protect the ghost orchid but numerous other indigenous species could be protected as well, including Cayman’s national flower, the banana orchid (Myrmecophila thomsoniana), the Ironwood tree (Chionanthus caymanensis), thatch palm (Coccothrinax proctorii) and Hohenbergia caymanensis – better known as 'Old George', a giant bromeliad known naturally only from this area.

The report examines the 100 most critically endangered species in the world. “If we don’t rapidly increase the amount of conservation attention that they receive, they may soon be lost forever," the authors report in the publication, which covers newts, tortoises, birds, fish, trees and flowers from all over the world.

“The declines of most of these species have been caused by humans and in almost all cases their extinction can be avoided and the decline reversed,” Baile writes in his introduction, in a report that identifies what can be done to preserve the diversity of life on earth.

Download the report here (he ghost orchid is feature on page 40).

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  1. RachelY says:


    Leave my family land alone. We are doing a fine job on preserving our land and ghost orchids. Do you know how? We are not developing the land, we are leaving it as is- untouched. 

    What these writers should be aware of is it was government who tried to 'preserve' the forest and what did they do? Wanted half the land for a cricket pitch and bulldoozed through to put a 100ft road. It's people trying to save the ghost orchid going into the land without asking and ripping the orchid up from the ground in an effort to 'save it' 
    (trespassing and stealing) 

    This is just another attempt to take land that has been in a Caymanian family for generations to destory it and profit under the guise of 'preservation'

    • Truthseeker says:

      "This is just another attempt to take land that has been in a Caymanian family for generations to destory it and profit under the guise of 'preservation'"

      Rachel, this is no such thing! Government have nothing to do with this latest recognition of the Ghost Orchid as a supremely endangered species, and I am sure this report is a complete surprise (and embarrasment) to them.

      Your comments regarding previous government plans for this forest are spot on.

      Please don't  judge too harshly those who cared enough to try to save some of the orchids (with ministerial approval) in the path of government's gazetted, surveyed (machete lines hacked), publically declared and repeatedly affirmed (at the highest ministerial level) roadway through the heart of this forest. 

      What a wonderful reprieve that the road never happened!



  2. Anonymous says:

    We have $50 million sitting in the Environmental Fund that should be used in creating the National Conservation Bill and purchase land to create national parks. The Central Wetlands, Booby Cay, Ironwood Forest and Colliers Pond should be designated protected areas. So sad that the Iguana, Cayman Parrot, The Ghost Orchid and The Thatch Palmall our national.symbol are on the critical endangered list. Minister Scotland should be ashamed for the lack of work he’s done in getting The Conservation Bill passed and doing more to protect our flora/fauna. We should have a National Environmental Authority that idendifies key areas in Cayman that must be protected for future generations. A trail for e.g. could be built for nature lovers and charge $5 for an entrance fee in the Meagre Bay Pond to observe wildlife but also protect the mangroves and native vegetation.

    • Anonymous says:

      Leave Caymanian generational lands alone, the families that own the land that is part of the so called "Iron Wood Forest" have no plans of developing the site. It has been in  Caymanian families for generations and they have said on several occasions that they will not develop the site.  Government and the National Trust should go about protecting the mangroves, North Sound, South Sound, the Caymanite Rocks.  Where was the public outcry to save the old Craft Market? 

  3. Anonymous says:

    another story that makes a mockery of  the 'caymankind'mantra………….zzzzzzzz

  4. Anonymous says:

    Mark scotland should be held responsible for the death of at least one species.


    • Anonymous says:

      Lets face facts, Mark is no more responsible for this than he is for the sun rising this morning. If the extremist at DOE would be more realistic the National Conservation Bill would be passed now. Secondly Mark did not develop the country for the last 500 years. So lets give blame when ACTUALLY due.

      Secondly, if the tree huggers would use their efforts to raise funds to purchase property instead of complaining and trying to TAKE private property via the NCL they might actually accomplish what they claim they want.

      We all want a good natural environment and we are all aware that a balance is required. However, there are a number of very vocal extremist who complain about development and destruction of the environment while in their giant airconditioned offices, massive canal front homes, with their luxury cars without a care in the world about the average person on the street who struggles to put food on the table, keep the lights on or provide money for lunch for their children.

      Even without the NCL this species can be saved:

      A private fund could be started to purchase this property with or without government assistance from the environmental fund.

      Private funds could be used to create a propagation program to save the speices.

      Every time I log on to CNS there is a push for the NCL. I sometimes think if the sky gets cloudy someone will post that it's because we don't have the NCL. When the real reason that successive governments have not passed it is because the bill is written in an extremist and oppressive manner to provide overwhelming power and influence to one department and by extension one individual.

      The facts are the facts.


      • Truthseeke says:

        Since you claim "The Facts are Facts". would you kindly enlighten us as to which clause of the draft NCL  allows anyone "to TAKE private property"?



        • Anonymous says:

          Well, if i told you I was letting you keep ownership of your house but I was taking control of it for the uses I see fit, I'm sure you would say I was "TAKING YOUR HOUSE"

          • Anonymous says:

            … not sure it says that in the NCL either. Maybe you should just switch your caps lock off and go have a sit down.

      • RachelY says:

        ' A private fund could be started to purchase this property with or without government assistance from the environmental fund'

        How about no. This a is privately owned property that has been in my family for generations. Leave us and our forest alone! 


  5. Richard N Parson says:

    It would be a shame to lose one of the world's most beautiful orchids, found only in Cayman, to extinction.  


  6. Not Anonymous says:

    We need to get active on this.  It may not save So. Sound but we need to make a move to protect threatened species and ENACT THE CONSERVATION LAW!    Though its not the main reason to save them, it is a misconception that these plants are not profitable: Eco & Adventure Tourism is still the fastest growing tourism market throughout the world and anyone who knows the Blue Iguanas' triumphant tale knows that there is hope and people from all over the world love to bear witness to hope.    

    We hunted the Blues down to less than 20 animals early in the 20th century and now have revived their numbers to the hundreds, and created a modest visitor revenue stream.  WE MUST CLEAN UP OUR OWN HOUSE AND YARD!  Protecting the iron wood stand is a way to save a (few) threatened species, lay the groundwork for an Ironwood Preserve Trail, and show the world that Cayman is indeed aware that the year is 2012, not 1912.  Just want to repeat that – it is 2012, not 1912…..  

    CAYMAN UNITED!   Peace…   eden hurlston 
  7. Anonymous says:

    Candlewood is also found there in the Ironwood forest.

    • In all seriousness says:

      I know it is serious, but this post does read like it was written by JK Rowling.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Several species of the ghost orchid are endangered species in the wild and are unique to their habitat.  As the habitats of the world are destroyed for development, unique species lose.  We lose.

    The ghost orchid of Cuba and the Florida Everglades is similarly rare and endangered.  It looks similar to that described here but also has long tendrils that blow in the breeze, emulating a dancer.  A beautiful plant is found at Blair Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and blooms May to September.  The novel, Ghost Orchid, by D. K. Christi was inspired by this orchid and is a book that appeals to a cross section of readers that might not have considered the importance of habitat preservation before reading about the ghost orchid in a novel of mystery, love, lies and redemption.

    The ghost orchid in England was thought extinct, but a few have been found.  Here we have three types of ghost orchids, each a bit unique from each other, each requiring their own habit, all threatened with loss.  So, it's not just one orchid on an island but a few more in England and in the Florida Everglades and Cuba, each needin consideration for their habitat to presever their ethereal and exquisite beauty for future generations. dkchristi.com


  9. Anonymous says:

    How about Bush uses his nation building fund to buy the six acres where the orchids are making their last stand.

    • anon. says:

      Crazy,no?….Middle East is erupting and we are discussing Orchids? Mayans may be right.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Never before in our History are so many Caymanian families moving to other countries,

    just in the past five years 17 to the Uk alone Imagine?

    There is an Orchid society here why do we need Government for everything?

    There is no Society working on saving us  Caymanians,sorry for the Orchids.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is exactly why….self, self, self!!  God didn't make you first….the flowers were here before you!

    • Anonymous says:

      Poor you. What is it that you are not getting? Your government pays for free health care, free houses, help on rent and mortgages, help on food, free marinas, money for churches and clubs, etc. If you are complaining about no job, then you just have to start trying because there is no lack of opportunity for any enterprising caymanian.

    • Anonymous says:

      7.02 Your comments are like a pall of mind-numbing gas washing over me. You spew out non-sequiturs like cliches from a third-rate journalist. And that's being kind.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with your comment that the Orchid Society should be involved.  I believe they do take part in salvage of orchids when they are notified or are given permission.  I have no idea if they are involved in the propagation or our native or endemic orchids.  If they are not they should be.  Could someone from the Orchid Society let the public know what they do on propagation? 

      However the Orchid Society does not pass laws to protect orchids and the environment. That is the responsibility of Government and we the people are responsible for the people we elect for those important positions.

      Looks like we all need to take a good hard look in the mirror. HUMMM

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks for asking. The Cayman  Islands Orchid Society is working on propagation of native and endemic orchids.  It is a long process over 3-5 years to bring the tiny seeds to plants capable of surviving in nature, involving growing the seeds in sterile conditions for much of that time.  Success is a long time coming but an "interim report" may well be due.  

  11. SKEPTICAL says:

    What on Earth do bush and his sycophantic "Yes Man" scotland care about a rare flower – can you sell it for a huge profit ? No ? – then it is unimportant. If Mark Scotland leaves any memorable legacy of his time as a Minister, it will be that he failed entirely to implement any legislation to protect the environment of the Cayman Islands, and hopefully any future books written about the History of the islands will report that fact very critically – he XXXX has totally failed future generations of Caymanians and residents. However, at least his failures have now been recognized and reported on in an International report.- what an "Honourable" achievement Mr Scotland – really something of which to be proud.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, this orchid's endangerment increases it's value on the Black Market, so, yeah, it may soon sell for a large profit. All the more reason for it to be protected. Also all the more reason it should never come under the stewardship of a politician.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes you can sell it for a HUGE Profit!

      I guess you don't know about orchid collectors.

  12. peter milburn says:

    Like everything else connected to the natural environment in these islands NO ONE inGovt gives a damn about these sort of things.Pity our house members are not on the endangered list.Wouldnt that be a hoot BUT wait maybe they are.

    • anon. says:

      Love you Pete! You are a gentleman and have never strayed from your principles. Known ya for 32 years.You were a grumbly dude then and still.We are on different sides of the isssues at times, but you are an example of polite discourse.Guess who I am?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Guess we can write this species off along with the parrots, iguanas and other flora and fauna trampled upon in the name of "development".



  14. Be afraid says:

    Nothing new – everything in Cayman faces extinction these days.