Tag Archives: ghost orchid

Flowers in South Florida


By Elam Stoltzfus



Flowers are pixie dust spread by the hand of God covering the world in beauty.


Springtime on my granddad’s farm was spectacular – apple trees, dogwoods, and hedges all bloomed as winter’s frost receded. By the house, my grandma and mother planted bunches of violets at the windowsills. In the garden, there were lilies in late spring. My grandparents’ homestead was inspiration for me; I recall sketching images of flowers with pencils during my early childhood.

As I delve into filmmaking, I continue my fascination with flowers. It’s always a challenge to capture a close-up, catching the best light to highlight the intricate features of a flower.

I have traveled all over the state of Florida and my favorite place to film images of flowers are in the Big Cypress National Preserve and the Fakahatchee Strand Presreve State Park. Flowers across the landscape of South Florida are like twinkles on the icing of your favorite cake – a vast array of colors, shapes, and sizes from the swamp lilies to the bromeliads and to the elusive ghost orchid.


While filming The Big Cypress Swamp: The Western Everglades, Fakahatchee Preserve biologist Mike Owen showed me a piece of Florida that I will never forget. Mike Owen is the ghost orchid expert and has made several discoveries of rare orchids in the swamp. Mike’s never ending knowledge of orchids and his thrill of being in the swamp is catching.  If you get separated from Mike, his famous call is, “Hootie Hoooo!”


On multiple occasions, I schlepped through the muckiness of the Fakahatchee with Mike. My goal was to film the ghost orchid as the flower unfurls into full bloom. The smell of the ghost orchid is like a lady’s perfume, fresh and intoxicating.


One of my favorite treks was a night trek into the swamp. I was hoping to capture on video the sole pollinator of the ghost orchid—the rarely seen sphinx moth. On this occasion, I went with Mike, my son, Nic, photographer Rick Cruz, and park director Renee Rau. We donned mosquito nets, carried the video gear into the swamp, set up lighting, and waited.  And waited.


After hours of patiently waiting–no sphinx moth. But we did capture some great video of the orchid at night and it was an adventure to remember. Last year, I revisited the area with the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition team. You can read more about our experience from fellow expeditioner Joe Guthrie’s blog post: http://www.floridawildlifecorridor.org/29-january-2012-fakahatchee-day-2/

If you have a garden, like I do, and want to learn more about how to plant Florida natives, I recommend checking out plantrealflorida.org. I have gotten several great ideas from their site.

Also, if you want to support saving Florida’s wildflowers, consider getting a Florida Wildflower license plate. You can find more info here: http://flawildflowers.org/buy_it_here.php.