Oil on Canvas, 60" x 36", 2020
Orchid: Dendrophylax lindenii
Native Range: Southern Florida and Cuba
Pollinator: Giant Sphinx Moths and recently discovered other moths
Conservation Status: Endangered by poaching, now protected by law in Florida
“Darkness falls on Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and nocturnal animals large and small wake up to begin their day. One of the world’s largest old-growth cypress forests, Corkscrew’s ancient bald cypresses rise up to 130 feet tall with girths up to 25 feet around.
High up in the canopy, pristine white Ghost Orchids hang suspended like airy apparitions, their powerful fragrance enticing a pollinator to visit. Zooming through the night swamp with wings that span 6 inches, the giant sphinx moth appears and sips from the orchid’s long nectar spur through a tongue that can uncoil 12 inches or more.
Just recently during the summer of 2019, a team of dedicated researchers and photographers captured this phenomenon for the first time on film using night camera traps. Their work revealed that other moths visited the Ghosts and could also be pollinators, an unusual finding in the world of orchids. Even so, only 1 in 10 Ghost Orchids produce a flower and of those, perhaps only 1 in 10 gets pollinated.
One of a small group of orchids that no longer depend on leaves for photosynthesis these stunning orchids continue to mystify and captivate the attention of people including myself. Roughly 70% of orchids are epiphytic (growing on another plant for support) and when not in flower, these orchids consist of only a tangled mass of gray-green roots. The sculptural impressions in the background of this painting imply the flower’s giant moth pollinator.”