Ghost Hunters, Part III

Ghost Hunters, Part I 

Ghost Hunters, Part II

Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) © Jungle Pete

Fear is an acceptable emotion that can lead to a heightened sense of awareness and ultimately protect one from a potential threat. I’m not afraid of ghosts. Nor am I afraid of seeking them but there are situations involved in the hunt that make you pause and consider that what you are doing is extremely dangerous and each step must be made with the greatest level of caution. The reward is ephemeral – 22 ivory white Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) blossoms floating under a canopy of Pop Ash (Fraxinus caroliniana) and Pond Apples (Annona glabra) in the midst of Florida’s greatest wildernesses – the Everglades.

The first step off the unpaved road is a hot one. Swamp Sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) radiates intense heat and although it’s just after 8 AM, it feels like someone opened the oven door. Drainage efforts over the years have created high and dry ecotones, where welcoming shade comes from Slash Pines (Pinus elliottii) along the trail. A Black Bear (Ursus americanus) footprint reminds us that we are not alone out here. This doesn’t concern me. The bear mostly likely knows we are here and has gone in the other direction.

American Black Bear footprint © Jungle Pete

Eventually the slightest elevation change brings us through a transition zone where towering Pond Cypress (Taxodium ascendens) draped with briars make the narrowing trail all the more difficult to traverse. There is no water here yet, but by the end of the rainy season, it will be two feet deep where we stand.

As the elevation plummets by the inch, the canopy closes in, the temperature drops nearly 20 degrees and we come to the edge of the water. The rainy season began a month back and the sloughs of the Everglades have been the first to fill. The limestone has been carved out by flowing water and has created the perfect environment for Pop Ash, Pond Apples and an assortment of native, spectacular orchids.

(to be continued)

Pete Corradino (Southeast)

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One Response to “Ghost Hunters, Part III”

  1. dkchristi says:

    What I love about the Corkscrew Swamp ghost orchid is its easy location just off the boardwalk where anyone can experience the beauty of this rare and endangered orchid of mystery and mysticism. The ecological balance of the swamp in that location makes it relatively bug free; the overhang and swamp breeze often a cooler place than elsewhere in summer. This promised to be a banner year with 15 potential blooms until the caterpillars or some other insect species had a feast. Some lucky visitors have had a look at a bloom or two. As the author of the mystery, Ghost Orchid, inspired by the original 2007 blooming of the “Super Ghost” of Blair Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, I am obsessed with seeing it bloom each year. I have not yet slogged through the rest of the Everglades in search of those unpublished. I hope that readers of Ghost Orchid will not only enjoy the story and its revelations of ghost orchid mystery and exquisite beauty but that a new audience will appreciate the preservation of natural habitats to protect rare and endangered species.