Sunday, May 23, 2010
Ghost Story **updated below**
The original concept behind this post involved dressing the kitties up as ghosts, but they weren't very cooperative. Here, I'm at the Oak Hills Gardens booth at SWROGA, posing with the legendary Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii). Oak Hills sells baby ghosts for $12.50 and they're incredibly cute, but five years from flowering and decades before they assume the grandeur of the specimen shown above.
Most of us know that the Ghost Orchid was popularized by The Orchid Thief and the movie "Adaptation." So, I asked Greg, one of the Oak Hills orchidists, about John LaRoche's plan to become a millionaire from cloning the plant. I was curious about the timeline, because it seemed like Oak Hills Gardens beat LaRoche at his own game. Greg said, "Well, we haven't made millions from it, but it's our most popular plant by far." Most, however, are sent off to an early death. Dendrophylax lindenii has narrow wetness parameters; it's easily under-watered and over-watered. Greg told me that hobbyists have made big strides in perfecting the cultural requirements of the species in the last five years or so, but it's still a challenge.
As most Cats and Catts readers know, the Ghost orchid is extremely rare in the wild. Humans are destroying its natural habitat and its sole pollinator (a particular species of Sphinx moth). There are only about a thousand of these orchids remaining in the world. A new batch of ghost orchids were discovered growing on the old-growth bald cypress trees in the Corkscrew Sanctuary Park in Naples Florida in July 2007. So far this year, one bloom opened in late March and lasted a couple of weeks. Last year, one plant produced ten long lasting flowers.
In my opinion, your best bet for seeing the ghost orchid "live" is at the Oak Hills Gardens vendors booth at the next orchid show.
**update** I just noticed a recent post by Marc in About Orchids about seeing the ghost orchid at the Northwestern Pennsylvania Orchid Show. Check it out -- he has great pictures. The growers were Kim and Edgar Stehli of Windswept in Time Orchids.