On April 22, 2007 I was hiking in Big Cypress National Preserve, specifically looking for Dendrophylax Lindenii (The Ghost Orchid). Most of the day I had no luck, but that was about to change drastically. I soon stumbled upon a swamp in the heat of the day which I would soon not forget. I stepped from the cypress and fern covered forest to a pop ash and pond apple swamp with a crunchy dried mud floor and an amazing mysterious feel.
I began to walk through the swamp in hopes of finding a unique plant or animal. Not far into the swamp I spoted a small leafless plant about eye level on a pop ash tree. As I moved closer and looked my heart began to beat fast and a feeling of achievement came over me. It was a Ghost Orchid! I had never seen a ghost orchid in the wild, so this was a fantastic moment for me. I quickly pulled out my point and shoot camera and snapped several pictures. Standing in front of the plant I made a few phone calls to share my excitement.
After about 5 minutes I decided to explore the rest of the swamp. WOW!!! Everywhere I walked there were Ghost Orchids! More and more and more, could this really be?!? I took a fair amount of pictures and I left unsure of any idea how many Ghost Orchids resided in “my” swamp.
Several days later I decided to call Mike Owen, biologist at Fakahatchee State Preserve, to tell him about my find. I told Mike that I had found about 100 Ghost Orchids in Big Cypress. Mike asked me several questions and I answered them the best I could. At this point I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with wild South Florida orchids. In fact, I wasn’t even 100% sure I had found Ghost Orchids, since I hadn’t seen any flowers. When we hung up I emailed him a link. A few days later he replied and confirmed that I had found the fames Ghost Orchid.
The summer of 2007, Misti and I spent many days in what we now call ‘Little Slough’. In the end we documented 607 Ghost Orchids in our ~2 acres swamp. We tediously documented each Ghost with an individual number, napped location, and data on each plant including number of live and dead roots, general health, host tree, height above ground, maximum annual water depth below the pant, and number of old and current flower spikes.
We continue to frequent this amazing place on a regular basis. On May 17, 2008 we video taped a Giant Sphinx Moth visiting a Ghost Orchid! This is a landmark video in the world of Ghost Orchids since this meeting has up until now only been a theory that no one has ever laid eyes on. The video was shot with a hand held video camera with an infrared night shot mode. Please look at the Pollination page for more information about this video.