Above: the butterfly orchid, Encyclia tampensis, is one of the most common epiphytic orchids in the swamps. Belo , top: in contrast, the Florida star orchid, Epidendrum floridense, is one of the rarest; middle: the cigar orchid, Cyrtopodium punctatum, is a rare orchid that once grew near the tops of cypress trees prior to logging in the 40’s and 50’s. They are now being reintroduced to the Refuge and elsewhere in south Florida; bottom: Michaux’s orchid, Habenaria quinqueseta, is widespread throughout the state.
What is the Native Orchid Restoration Project? Among the native plant species on the Refuge are perhaps as many as 45 species of orchids. Many species of native orchids have been decimated by habitat destruction and illegal collecting. Most of the species found on the Refuge are rare and on the State endangered species list.
Orchids have sensitive and intricate life history requirements. Refuge staff are working with scientists to restore orchid populations by collecting seed pods and using naturally occurring fungus to germinate seeds. The germinated seeds are then grown in climate- controlled labs and greenhouses, until transplanted to their natural environment. The orchid restoration project’s goal is to restore native orchids within their natural range on public lands in south Florida.