ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The rare ghost orchid faces mounting threats in Florida from poaching, loss of habitat and climate change and needs federal protection, environmental groups said Monday.
A petition filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asks that the orchid be placed under the Endangered Species Act and that its habitat in southern Florida 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 there are about 1,500 ghost orchids in Florida, where they have declined by 30 percent to 50 percent. The flowers were made famous in the book “The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orlean and the film “Adaptation.”
“The ghost orchid is emblematic of a wild, beautiful Florida, and this flower’s future depends on our ability to protect it from poaching and habitat loss,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Ghost orchids are found mainly in the Big Cypress National Preserve, the 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 go 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.