An interesting variation is the mostly leafless Vanilla barbellata, Snake or Worm Vine which is native to Florida and many of the islands in the Caribbean Sea. There are several other varieties of Vanilla which appear at times to be leafless, although they do have small or inconspicuous leaves for part of the year. Their stems as well as the roots photosynthesize to provide the plant with food to grow.
The most famous of the leafless orchids is Dendrophylax lindenii or the Ghost Orchid. This orchid, a native of Florida, Cuba, Haiti and possibly other islands in the Caribbean, was brought to public light as a result of the book by Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief, and the movie Adaptation. As a result of this publicity there has been much interest in poaching these rare orchids where they grow in the Florida swamps, unfortunately, they rarely survive.
These Ghost Orchids are available at Oak Hill Gardens under the name “POLYRRHIZA (POLYRADICION) lindeni”. Culture is rather difficult for most people as they need little light, warm temperatures, very high humidity and low air circulation. Several sources recommend growing them mounted on wood or wire mesh in old fish tanks just above the water. Daily mistings with rainwater will encourage growth. Some growers recommend that aquatic plants be placed in the water. A happy plant is capable of growing roots up to an inch a month. These seed grown specimens have a much better chance of surviving than those removed from the wild. The plant will be big enough to bloom once the root spread is about 5 inches or 13 centimeters in diameter. The flowers are produced in the spring, April through June in the northern hemisphere, with most plants producing just one flower on a 4-10 inch or 10-25 centimeter inflorescence.
In 2007 there was a discovery of a blooming Ghost Orchid in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary where it is growing about 45-50 feet, or 13-15 meters, high on an old bald cypress tree near a boardwalk. The plant bloomed three times with 12, 10 and 3 flowers respectively. In 2008 it again bloomed and was dubbed “Super Ghost” for its spectacular display. If you are in Florida during June and July, find out if it is blooming.
You Should Also Read:
Orchid Profile - Nun Orchid
Photographing orchids in the wild
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