Famous ghost orchid one step closer to Endangered Species Act protection National Parks Conservation Association
Climate change, drying up of wetlands and rampant development have also contributed to this steep decline of an already hard-to-find species.
HOLLYWOOD, Florida.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announcement today that he will consider granting Endangered Species Act protection to the ghost orchid, a critically endangered flower. Under federal law, the agency now has until January 2023 to make a decision.
Today’s discovery follows a petition filed by the Institute for Regional Conservation, the Center for Biological Diversity and the National Parks Conservation Association. The petition argued that the agency should add the rare native orchid to the endangered species list and designate critical habitat, essential to its survival and recovery.
The ghost orchid is threatened with extinction by multiple threats, including poaching, habitat loss and degradation, and the climate crisis. Its population has declined by more than 90% worldwide, and there were only about 1,500 ghost orchid plants left in Florida as of early 2022.
“We are grateful that the Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that our petition has merit and will move forward with the review process for federal listing,” said George Gann, executive director of the Institute for Regional Conservation. “The ghost orchid has suffered a long decline in South Florida and Cuba, in part because of its immense popularity, and federal protection will help us not only save this icon of beauty from extinction, but will also allow recovery work to begin.Preventing extinction is the lowest bar for conservation; our goal must be full recovery.
“The Ghost Orchid is a testament to how biodiversity can have a monumental impact on our collective minds and imaginations,” said Elise Bennett, Florida deputy director and attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Its rare and enigmatic beauty has captivated authors, photographers and filmmakers. I really hope that federal officials will hurry up and protect this magnificent specter of our marshes before it’s too late.
“I still remember the first time I saw a ghost orchid. I was waist deep in a swamp in the heart of the Everglades and spotted one woven around a tree trunk. I had spent six months searching, while searching for plant life in the ‘Glades. It was a moment I will never forget.” said Melissa Abdo, Ph.D., Sun Coast regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association.
“I understand the allure this beautiful, rare plant species has for people, but its popularity comes at a high price. Recent spikes in ghost orchid poaching have left the species in grave peril, with fewer than 750 mature orchids left. in the wild. Climate change, the drying up of wetlands and rampant development have also contributed to this steep decline of an already hard-to-find species. That’s why I’m relieved that the Fish and Wildlife Service has chosen to consider listing the Ghost Orchid under the federal Endangered Species Act, it deserves nothing less than the full federal protections necessary to keep this species alive and thriving.
The ghost orchid’s current range in Florida includes Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and other conservation areas and tribes in Collier, Hendry and possibly Lee counties. It is also found in Cuba. Although the full extent of Hurricane Ian’s impact on ghost orchids in Florida and Cuba is not yet known, powerful hurricanes have recently reduced orchid numbers.
Conservation organizations will remain closely engaged in the listing process to support the strongest protections under the Endangered Species Act to ensure the recovery of the Ghost Orchid.
An emblem of Florida’s fragile beauty and rich biodiversity, the ghost orchid has been featured in Susan Orlean’s book The Orchid Thief and in the film Adaptation, starring Meryl Streep and Nicholas Cage.
About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan Association for the Conservation of National Parks has been the leading voice in saving our national parks. The NPCA and its nearly 1.7 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our country’s most iconic and inspiring places for future generations. For more information visit www.npca.org
A private non-profit organization, T*Institute for Regional Conservation (IRC)* is dedicated to the protection, restoration and long-term management of biodiversity on a regional basis, and to the prevention of local extinctions of rare plants, animals and ecosystems. Based in Florida, USA, IRC works on conservation research and action throughout South Florida, the Caribbean and beyond. His vision is to unite people and nature to restore our world.
**The Center for Biological Diversity** is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to protecting endangered species and wild places.