A rare and endangered orchid has flowered for the first time in the UK.
The ghost orchid, or dendrophylax lindenii, is on display to the public at the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG), Kew.
The flower is known for its frog-like shape and could be seen on display in the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew on Thursday.
The flowers are mainly found in southern Florida and Cuba, but only around 2,000 plants remain in the world – around 1,500 in Floria and approximately 500 in Cuba.
There had been concerns the orchid would not flower in the colder UK climate.
It was flown into the UK from Chicago two weeks ago and the bud was displayed at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Alberto Trinco, botanical horticulturist at Kew Gardens, said: “It’s quite a particular orchid – it has no leaves whatsoever, just roots, and it photosynthesizes from the roots so it’s quite interesting.”
The ghost orchid usually blooms in the dark and has a sweet-smelling fragrance that is only released at night.
It is recorded as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature on its Red List of Threatened Species.
The ghost orchid population in Florida was drastically reduced when the trees the flower wraps itself around were cut down for wood during the Second World War.
The wood was used for aircraft carrier decks in the Pacific.
The destruction of the orchid’s habitat is another key reason why its population has declined globally.
Journey to Kew
The ghost orchid was donated to Kew thanks to a collaboration with botanic gardens and universities in the US.
Seeds collected from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge germinated back in 2014 at the University of Florida, before the plant was donated to Chicago’s botanic garden.
After it received clearance to be exported, an orchid specialist flew with the orchid on her lap in a clear storage box on a commercial flight from Chicago to Heathrow.
Its bud was exhibited at Chelsea, before the flower was moved to a terrarium – a small container – at Kew, to ensure humidity and temperature remain constant throughout the day.
Mr Trinco added: “For me, it’s absolutely incredible. To see it at Kew, it’s remarkable because it’s a very rare plant, even in cultivation.
“Usually plants that travel up high get quite stressed, so it’s really a success all-round from everybody to now have the plant flowering.”
Mr Trinco was not sure the orchid would bloom.
He added: “It arrived from Chelsea to Kew on Sunday and [on] Tuesday I put it inside the terrarium.
“Since then I’ve been awake at night thinking ‘What if anything gets in or it gets too hot?’, so it’s a bit of a relief.”
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Image: Pic: RBG Kew Kew’s orchid conservation display aims to highlight the critical role the flower plays in ecosystems globally and the need to protect them.
RBG Kew has one of the oldest collections of living orchids in the world, containing around 8,000 plants and 1,300 species.
Orchids are extremely sensitive to changes in the environment and their disappearance from an area is often seen as an indicator of poor ecosystem health.
In the UK there are 52 orchid varieties native to the country, all of which flower between April and September.