Hunting Down the Rarest Orchids on the Planet
Orchids are among the most expensive and talked about flowers in the world, and it’s easy to see why. Every species offers something new to admire, with their prolonged, wayward petals and bright, radiant colors. But some species of orchids are easier to find than others. Discover where to find the most awe-inspiring orchids on the planet.
The Ghost Orchid
This phantom-like flower remains one of the most elusive plants in the world. You can only find it in the darky shady woods of Southern Florida, parts of Cuba, and the Bahamas. The only insect that can pollinate the flower is the giant sphinx moth with its unusually long proboscis, the long snout-like tube that extends out of the creature’s mouth. If you’ve seen the movie Adaptation, you might remember Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper slumming it in the Everglades in hopes of seeing a ghost orchid in its natural habitat. If you feel like making the trek, prepare for long outings in swampy marshes and woods. Look for them growing out of a trunk or a prominent branch of a tree, usually around eye-level. They bloom in the summer months, starting in late June until the end of August.
Myths have long circulated about the ghost orchid. It is said that staring at the flower is to behold its transcendental powers. Few have lived to tell the tale. Will you be one of them?
Hochstetter’s Butterfly Orchid
Hochstetter’s butterfly orchid was originally discovered back in the 1800s by an explorer named, you guessed it, Hochstetter. The flower is characterized by its lime green tentacles with tiny buds on the end. The flower hadn’t been seen in the wild for over 170 years until it was spotted on a volcanic ridge on the Azores Islands, a volcanic patch of islands off the coast of Portugal, in 2013. Interest in this mysterious plant quickly went through the roof, as the scientific community clamored to learn more about its history.
It now appears that there are three different closely related species of orchids connected to the original Hochstetter’s butterfly orchid. They believe that a single seed from the original plant emigrated from North Africa all the way to these remote islands off the coast of Europe. All in all, finding and learning about the plant has been quite a challenge. Get ready for a long journey to the Azores Islands if you want to see the plant in person.
Recently discovered in 2010, the Coleman’s Coralroot is off to a rocky start. Cattle grazing and temperature hikes are taking a toll on this gorgeous flower. Scientists are becoming increasingly worried about its chances for survival. There are about 200 of them located throughout the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico. The plant has long pasty white stems with tiny rose-pink buds on the ends. Spotting them in the wild can be extremely difficult, especially if the flower is not yet in bloom. They’re most common in the Santa Rita Mountains and Dragon Mountains. This region has had its fair share of drought over the past couple of years, making it that much more difficult for the flowers to flourish. Unlike most plants, the Coleman’s Coralroot doesn’t use photosynthesis; rather, it depends on a select species of fungi for nourishment. If you want to see one for yourself, time is of the essence. The drought in Arizona is likely to get worse in the years ahead.
Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid
The Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid always looks like it’s about to take flight. It has giant sweeping petals and a rosy center that are unlike anything else in the wild. You can only find this ravishing flower on Mount Kinabalu in Borneo at around 500 to 1200 meters above sea level. A number of explorers have vowed to make the unruly trip only to come back empty-handed. The flower’s rarity makes it the most expensive orchid in the world. They usually take about 15 years to grow, which is another reason why some people pay around $5,000 for a single flower. If you feel like trekking through the mountains of Borneo, you might be able to make your money’s worth by bringing back a flower in one piece.
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