Ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii)

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Ghost orchid
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Ghost orchid fact file

Ghost orchid description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassLiliopsida
OrderOrchidales
FamilyOrchidaceae
GenusDendrophylax (1)

This beautiful orchid has recently achieved fame on the silver screen, in the film 'Adaptation' that focuses on Susan Orlean's book 'The Orchid Thief' (2). The ghost orchid is so-called due to the appearance of the leafless plant that consists only of a network of thin roots wrapped around the host branch; the flowers (borne on spikes arising from the root network) appear to be suspended in the forest air (3). The white flower also explains this species' other common name of 'frog orchid'; as the elongated lip petal resembles the back legs of a jumping frog.

Also known as
Florida ghost orchid, Frog orchid.
Synonyms
Polyradicion lindenii, Polyrrhiza lindenii.
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Ghost orchid biology

When not in flower the plant consists solely of its network of roots, which are used both to absorb moisture and for photosynthesis(4). Ghost orchids flower during the summer months, producing a succession of single flowers (3), which (in Florida) are pollinated by the giant sphinx moth (4).

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Ghost orchid range

Found in the West Indies and in southern Florida in the United States (3).

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Ghost orchid habitat

This epiphytic orchid grows upon the branches and trunks of trees within its wetland habitat (3).

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Ghost orchid status

Listed on Appendix II of CITES (1).

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Ghost orchid threats

This orchid is now extremely rare, and such beautiful plants remain at risk from illegal collection (4).

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Ghost orchid conservation

In Florida, the ghost orchid is fully protected and it is illegal to tamper with or remove plants of this species (4). It is also protected within the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve (4). To date, cultivation of this spectacular species has proven unsuccessful and the only method of preserving this ephemeral orchid in the wild is to protect areas of remaining habitat (4).

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Authentication

Authenticated (5/6/03) by Dr Phillip Cribb. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk

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Glossary

Epiphytic
A plant that uses another plant, typically a tree, for its physical support, but which does not draw nourishment from it.
Photosynthesis
Metabolic process characteristic of plants in which carbon dioxide is broken down, using energy from sunlight absorbed by the green pigment chlorophyll. Organic compounds are made and oxygen is given off as a by-product.
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References

  1. CITES (May, 2003)
    http://www.cites.org
  2. Bernhardt, B. (2003) An Orchid Grows in Hollywood. Plant Talk, 32: 38 - 39.
  3. Van Alstyne, IW. (1980) Polyradicion lindenii, new name for Polyrrhiza lindenii. Florida Orchidist, 23(1): 21.
  4. U-haul International (May, 2003)
    http://www.uhaul.com/supergraphics/orchid/index-flash.html
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Image credit

Ghost orchid  
Ghost orchid

© Connie K. Bransilver / Artemis Images

Artemis Images
60 Seagate Drive #406
Naples
FL
34103
United States of America
Fax: +1 239 649 0336
Bransilver@aol.com
http://www.artemisimages.net

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