Endangered ghost orchid flowers in UK for first time at Kew Gardens

A rare and endangered ghost orchid, also known as dendrophylax lindenii, has bloomed for the first time in the UK at the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG), Kew. The unique flower, known for its frog-like shape, is mainly found in southern Florida and Cuba, with only around 2,000 plants remaining worldwide. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the ghost orchid as endangered on its Red List of Threatened Species.

The ghost orchid was donated to Kew Gardens through a collaboration with botanic gardens and universities in the US. Seeds collected from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge germinated in 2014 at the University of Florida before the plant was donated to Chicago’s botanic garden. After receiving export clearance, an orchid specialist flew with the plant from Chicago to Heathrow, with the bud displayed at the Chelsea Flower Show before being moved to Kew.

Alberto Trinco, botanical horticulturist at Kew Gardens, said, “It’s quite a particular orchid – it has no leaves whatsoever, just roots, and it photosynthesizes from the roots, so it’s quite interesting.” The ghost orchid usually blooms in the dark and releases a sweet-smelling fragrance only at night.

The ghost orchid population in Florida experienced a significant decline when trees the flower wraps itself around were cut down for wood during the Second World War. The wood was used for aircraft carrier decks in the Pacific. The destruction of the orchid’s habitat is a key reason for its global population decline.

Kew’s orchid conservation display aims to highlight the essential role flowers play in ecosystems worldwide and the need to protect them. RBG Kew has one of the oldest collections of living orchids globally, containing around 8,000 plants and 1,300 species. Orchids are highly sensitive to environmental changes, and their disappearance from an area often indicates poor ecosystem health. In the UK, there are 52 native orchid varieties that flower between April and September.

World News

Jamie Cartwright

Jamie is a keen traveler, writer, and (English) teacher. A few years after finishing school in the East Mids, UK, he went traveling around South America and Asia. Several teaching and writing jobs, he found himself at The Thaiger where he mostly covers international news and events.

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