The Million Orchid Project: Restoring Florida’s Flora

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In case your guess by the name, Florida was once a place for flowers. South Florida specifically, was once blanketed in orchids, as our humid environment and plentiful shade are the perfect habitats for their growth. A century ago, masses of orchids grew in clusters on every branch of every oak and mahogany tree in the seaside hardwood hammocks of Biscayne Bay.

A century ago, masses of orchids grew in clusters on every branch of every oak and mahogany tree in the seaside hardwood hammocks of Biscayne Bay

Our beautiful floral decor was nearly eradicated in the late 1800s, however,  as the Florida East Coast Railroad extended southward and orchids were removed to be sold as disposable potted plants in northern flower shops. Once urban development and by proxy farming picked up, almost all of our native orchids were completely wiped out.

Now, to re-introduce our native flora back into the urban landscape, Fairchild Tropical Gardens is proposing to propagate a limitless supply of young millions of native orchids that they will distribute to local schools and urban tree plantings. The organization’s goal is to have the first generation of reestablished orchids blooming throughout South Florida within five years. Throughout the project Fairchild scientists will teach visitors, students, and our local community about the complexity and fragility of natural South Florida environments and the importance of habitat restoration.

The organization’s goal is to have the first generation of reestablished orchids blooming throughout South Florida within five years.

Throughout the project, Fairchild scientists will teach visitors, students, and our local community about the complexity and fragility of natural South Florida environments and the importance of habitat restoration.

The idea is based off a successful model already in place at the Singapore Botanic Garden (SBG) where scientists have been propagating and replanting the native orchids of Singapore on street trees throughout the city for over 30 years. Several orchid species have already successfully re-established themselves to levels that allow them to reproduce naturally, even in the most densely developed urban settings.

To learn more about The Million Orchid Project, visit the project’s webpage or contact Griselda Chavarría at gchavarria@fairchildgarden.org