Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014



We here at the DUNER BLOG pride ourselves on delivering uplifting, feel-good stories to our readers. This week, we head to South Florida for such an item.  Last week, ambitious botanists announced their incredible Million Orchid Project.  Their goal is to reforest Dade County with native orchids.   See...a long time ago...when American homesteaders first began settling in Miami 150 years ago, South Florida was an orchid paradise. Back then, the shores of Biscayne Bay were covered in forests of oak and mahogany trees.  Orchid vines and trestles blanketed every branch, making the area awash in in bright colors.

Things changed dramatically on April 15, 1896.  That's when the Florida East Coast Railroad officially opened service to Miami.  Hungry entrepreneurs flocked from the Eastern Seaboard cities to Florida.  The simplest of get-rich-quick schemes involved harvesting wild orchids from the trees.  Once potted, they were quickly transported to florists in New York, Philly and Boston for sale.  Unfortunately...much like the gold in California...within a mere twenty years, all the natural resources had depleted.  Today, it is nearly impossible to find a wild orchid growing in Dade County.

All seemed lost...Until the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden stepped in!  These bitchen botanists came up with an fantastic plan to reintroduce orchids to Miami.  As everyone knows, orchids are a notoriously slow-growing plant.   Hence, this is a five year plan.  It begins in the greenhouses. Standard micro-propigation techniques are used to grow seedlings.  After 24 months, they are finally large enough to transplant into containers.  A year later, they are strong enough to be formally transplanted outside.    It takes great skill to attach one to tree branches.  It takes great diligence to monitor a stubborn orchid, so the botanists visit plants regularly for the last year.

You're asking yourself:  Isn't this a lot of work?  How can a handful of gardeners repopulate all of Dade County with a million native orchids?  Glad you asked!  In fact, this is the brilliant part of the Fairfield Plan: As you know, Miami has lots of unemployed, inner-city youths.  Even the smallest of stipends is welcome. Working in conjunction with public schools, a large nature corps has been formed.  The kids man every part of the operation, from the tiny seeds in the lab to climbing the limbs of trees to attach vines.

See?  How often do you get to read a story about rejuvenating an endangered species, bringing colorful flowers to the inner-city and unemployed youths getting jobs...all in the same blog?  That's what we're here to do at the DUNER BLOG!  One last thing:  The scientific names of the two orchids that are being re-introduced to Miami are: Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia Tampensis) and Cowhord Orchid (Cryptodium Punctatum). Rock on, Million Orchid Project!

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