Dendrophylax lindenii (syn. Polyrrhiza lindenii), a.k.a. the ghost orchid, is perhaps the most revered orchid in the United States, if not the world.  Its locations and stories are like smoke on the wind.  The ghost orchid was discovered by Jean Jules Linden in Cuba in 1844, and the plant was discovered in the sub-tropical peninsula of Florida about 50 years later. Found in concealed swamps of Cuba, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Big Cypress National Preserve and other guarded locations in South Florida, the ghost remains a mystery to most people. Some sources elude that it’s possible the ghost orchid has become extremely rare in Cuba or quite possibly now nowhere to be found on the island. It is rumored that pre 1980s the plant was much more common than it is today.  The story of its decrease includes interesting tales of snow in the Bahamas, the devastating logging of the mysterious Fakahatchee Strand, digging of the canal system throughout South Florida, and perhaps the most known, poachers.

Today it is a rare and fascinating sight to see a ghost orchid in bloom.  It is approximated that 2,000 individual plants reside in the swamps of South Florida.  Of these, approximately 5 to 10% bloom each year, and of those only about 10% are pollinated by Cocytius antaeus, the giant sphinx moth (dubbed “the flying tongue” by Mike Owen).  It’s theorized that the sphinx moth follows the odor of the ghost orchid like a shark in a chum slick back to its source, where it then uses its 5” tongue to drink the nectar out of the ghost orchid.  This same moth must then find another blooming ghost orchid to pollinate.  Ghost orchids usually will have 1 bloom, but on some occasions a plant will have more than one flower and possibly multiple flowers on individual or separate flower spikes. On July 7, 2007 a previously unknown and outstandingly large ghost orchid was discovered in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, FL.  This plant, dubbed the “Super Ghost”, was growing 45 feet high and had 11 blooms at its peak.  It is currently the only wild ghost orchid whose location is not kept secret. 

We have personally been involved with ghost orchids since April of 2007. After a few years searching for a ghost orchid, on April 28, 2007 we stumbled into what Misti and I have now named Little Slough. The location is secret to but a few, but we want to share some of what we have documented in the wilds of South Florida.  We also set this site up in hopes of sharing this wonderful plant species and to advance the knowledge of this species.  If you have any information about this plant that may be useful please contact us.

We would like to give a special thanks to Mike Owen for helping us document these interesting plants!

Please watch the site as more information will be posted regularly!

See you on the trails!

Chris Little