ST. PETERSBURG, Florida.
The rare ghost orchid faces growing threats in Florida from poaching, habitat loss and climate change and needs federal protection, environmental groups said Monday.
A petition filed with the US Fish and Wildlife Service calls for the orchid to be placed under the Endangered Species Act and for its habitat in South Florida to be officially designated as critical to its recovery.
The petition was submitted by the Institute for Regional Conservation, the Center for Biological Diversity and the National Parks Conservation Association, according to a news release.
The groups estimate that there are around 1,500 ghost orchids in Florida, where they have declined by 30-50%. The flowers were made famous in the book “The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orlean and in the film “Adaptation”.
“The ghost orchid is emblematic of a beautiful and wild Florida, and the future of this flower depends on our ability to protect it from poaching and habitat loss,” said Jaclyn Lopez, director of the Center for Biological Diversity for Florida.
Ghost orchids are primarily found in Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, and Aubudon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. They are also found in Cuba.
“We can do nothing and watch another species become extinct in the wild, or we can act now to protect and restore this flagship orchid and its wild habitats,” said George Gann, executive director of the Institute for regional conservation.