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The Million Orchid Project (MOP)

Million Orchid Project & Fort Lauderdale Orchid Society 2020 Projects

Thank you for your interest in the Fort Lauderdale Orchid Society’s collaboration with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s Million Orchid Project. Through this collaboration, Broward County citizens can participate in the conservation and reintroduction of some of South Florida’s most rare native orchid species. With the help of students, volunteers, and local community groups, Fort Lauderdale Orchid Society (FLOS) is working to restore some of South Florida’s rare and endangered orchid species into our urban landscape.

South Florida was once an orchid paradise, with a rich variety of tropical orchids growing naturally on the branches of every tree. In the late 1800s, as the Florida East Coast Railroad extended southward, orchids were among the first natural resources to be exploited. Flowering orchids were ripped from the trees and packed into railroad cars, destined to be sold as disposable potted plants in northern flower shops. Orchid populations dwindled rapidly, and now our iconic native orchids exist in such small numbers that they have little hope of recovering on their own.

At its core, The Million Orchid Project is a massive science experiment that allows us to make important discoveries about how native orchids grow and reproduce. Additionally, the science of The Million Orchid Project may help us develop more general strategies for rescuing rare plants within a highly developed urban environment.

For the last two years, FLOS has collected orchid seed from Broward County locations to use in repopulating our area. These seedlings will be available for planting starting in the summer of 2020.

We are now looking for partners who are interested in participating in this project. Fairchild and FLOS are both 501(c)3 organizations that are conducting this pursuant to our respective charters. We will be glad to make a presentation at meetings of groups interested in learning more.

Plantings are done in spring and summer to take advantage of the rainy season. The following is a general outline of how a project is structured:

  1. Site visit – experts from FLOS and/or Fairchild will visit your potential site(s) and do an assessment of the landscape and species that would do well. (Winter / Spring 2020) We pick a date for planting.

  2. Volunteer recruitment – you get volunteers to help on planting day and arrange for watering on an as-needed basis. For larger projects, FLOS will arrange for additional volunteers from our society and the Florida Master Gardener volunteers.

  3. Ceremonial event and initial installation – kickoff event, featuring training and support by FLOS and/or Fairchild. Volunteers from the partnering organization are trained in how to install orchids in trees and plant terrestrials in the ground. We have generally started with installations around 500 plants.

  4. Follow up plantings…if you want to install additional orchids over the summer we can deliver them for installation by your volunteers.

Orchids are planted in groups, with anywhere from ten to fifty per tree or ground planting.

Partners will be responsible for:

  • Installing orchids (with training and assistance) following recommendations

  • Commit to watering as needed for first 30 days, and occasionally thereafter during dry spells (until established, less than one year)

  • Cost recovery of approximately $3.00 – $4.50 per plant; this will vary depending on the site requirements, quantity, and species used.

Sample Ground Orchids

Oncidium ensatum
Oncidium ensatum

Oncidium ensatum (Florida Oncidium or Dancing Lady)

  • Distribution: Tropical America, the Bahamas and extends into southern Florida.

  • Flowering Period: All year; primarily May-August

  • Growth habit: Found in terrestrial habitats of rich humus in relatively dry hammocks, or as epiphytes at the base of cypress trees in wet forests.

Bletia purpurea
Bletia purpurea

Bletia purpurea (Pine pink)

  • Distribution: Florida, West Indies, Central America, and northern South America.

  • Flowering period: December to March

  • Growth habit: This orchid grows in open habitats or shade. Bletia purpurea is considered threatened in Florida.

Sample Ground Orchids

Encyclia tampensis
Encyclia tampensis

Encyclia tampensis (Florida butterfly orchid)

  • Distribution: Bahamas, Cuba, and Florida.

  • Flowering period: May-August with a peak in June.

  • Growth habit: In Florida, this orchid grows on a wide variety of native trees including live oak, slash pine, red maple, gum, bald cypress, buttonwood, pop ash, and pond apple. Forms dense clusters along horizontal branches.

Cyrtopodium punctatum
Cyrtopodium punctatum

Cyrtopodium punctatum (Florida cowhorn or cigar orchid)

  • Distribution: Florida to Mexico and south to Argentina

  • Flowering period: March-June

  • Growth habit: Grows on tropical hardwood trees. Native trees include buttonwood, live oak, bald cypress, and cabbage palm. A mass of cigar-like pseudobulbs can grow up to 1.5 meters across and an individual plant can produce more than 500 flowers. In Florida, this orchid is highly endangered. Intense collecting pressure during the last century has greatly impacted populations of this orchid and illegal collection continues to be a threat.

More species information available at:

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