• The Florida panther's steely gaze - NPS/RALPH ARWOOD

    Big Cypress

    National Preserve Florida

There are park alerts in effect.
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  • 2014 Zone 4 Closure

    Beginning at 12:01 am Monday, April 7, 2013, the Zone 4 airboat access within Big Cypress National Preserve will be closed due to low water conditions. More »

  • Turner River Closure

    Turner River is closed due to low water conditions. It is advised that visitors consider paddling Halfway Creek as an alternative. More »

  • Campground Closure

    Beginning January 27, through August 28, Burns Lake Campground will be closed to camping. It will still be accessible for day use and backcountry access, however. More »

  • Interstate 75 Mile Marker 63 Closure

    Beginning summer of 2013, the rest area and backcountry access at Mile Marker 63 will be closed due to construction. More »

  • Portion of Florida National Scenic Trail Closed

    Florida National Scenic Trail as well as its side trails north of Interstate 75 are closed due to the Orange Blossom Fire. More »

Ghost Orchid

Big Cypress National Preserve is home to over 30 species of orchids. Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants in the world with over 25,000 species known and many more likely in existence. These flowers have not only seduced a huge number of insects and birds worldwide into pollinating them, they have seduced us with their striking and unusual beauty. As a result, many of the orchids of South Florida have become rare and endangered due to over-collecting.

The ghost orchid, with its long, delicate petals and spur of nectar has become a symbol of the South Florida landscape. Deep swamps of cypress, pond apple and palm trees are the preferred environment for this finicky plant. The ghost orchid, like many orchids, has specific habitat requirements such as high humidity, mild temperatures, dappled shade, and the existence of a certain type of fungus. The ghost orchid is leafless but has photosynthetic roots that allow it to produce sugars in the presence of sunlight. Its roots engage in a symbiotic relationship with a type of fungus that helps it gather nutrients in exchange for extra sugars. Without this fungus, the orchid would be unable to thrive.

The ghost orchid's tangled mass of green roots clings tightly to the trunks of various tree species including cypress, pond apple, and maple and is visible year-round.It is distinguished from other species of orchid by the presence of thin white markings dotting its roots. In June and July, at the peak of mosquito season, the ghost orchid blooms. At night, it is pollinated by the sphinx moth, whose long tongue or proboscis allows it to receive a sweet reward of nectar from the flower that is not easily reached by other insects. Ideally, the moth will travel to more than one ghost orchid plant, thus transferring pollen. However, the ghost orchid is a rare and endangered plant species that does not flower reliably.

Habitat destruction and hydrologic changes due to human development in South Florida have been partially responsible for the decline of ghost orchid populations. Also, over-collecting has had a negative impact on this special plant. The ghost orchid is now protected in many public land areas in South Florida, including Big Cypress National Preserve. With continued protection, the ghost and other orchids will continue to inhabit the unique mosaic of ecosystems that is South Florida.

 
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Ghost orchid in bloom.

Did You Know?

Alligator in the swamp.

Feeding alligators creates nuisance alligators. Every year alligators that have been fed by visitors begin to lose their fear of humans. If these animals become aggresive they are killed to ensure visitor safety. To avoid this tragic end for these unique animals DO NOT FEED THEM.