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Rare Ghost Orchid in bloom at the Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter
02May 2012

One of the world’s rarest flowers, the mysterious Ghost Orchid, is in bloom on the Blue Hole Nature Trail at the Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter.


Grand Cayman's Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax fawcetti) is a rare, endangered and endemic native plant. The flower is a small to medium, pale cream-coloured blossom, but still subtly beautiful- especially against a leafy background. This particular orchid is often very difficult to cultivate outside of its natural habitat.


The Cayman Turtle Centre has two Ghost Orchids that were donated by the Orchid Society in late 2006. They had been rescued from clearing work going on at the Ironwood Forest in George Town and were re-attached to two trees growing in the Blue Hole at the Cayman Turtle Centre’s Blue Hole Nature Trail.


After being dormant for almost two years, the first of the Turtle Centre’s Ghost Orchids bloomed in early 2008. Since then, both orchids have bloomed each year in late April or early May.


The Ghost Orchid is a unique flower, as the single pale blossom grows from a strange-looking epiphyte that more resembles a creeping vine or some sort of root system embedded in the bark of a tree, rather than an actual plant (or what most people perceive an orchid plant to look like). It often seems to be suspended in mid-air, hence the name “Ghost Orchid.”


“This unique form makes the Ghost Orchid difficult to locate in the wild among the leaves, branches and vines of their arboreal woodland habitat. It is a unique and exciting natural phenomenon to observe on the Blue Hole Nature Trail,” said Geddes Hislop, who is the Curator -Terrestrial Exhibits & Education Programmes at the Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter.


The Ghost Orchid’s bloom will usually last for about two weeks. It is suspected that the flower is pollinated by a large nocturnal sphinx moth that uses its long proboscis to reach into the deep flower to feed on its nectar.


This orchid is a distant relative of the African and Indian Ocean genus Angraecum. Botanists theorise  that orchid seeds, blowing like dust, crossed the Atlantic at least once and successfully colonised new habitat.


Guests to the Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter are encouraged to visit the Blue Hole Nature Trail to observe this rare flower while it remains in bloom.