The Search for One of Florida’s Most Rare, Endangered Orchids

Florida’s native Cigar Orchids have been vanishing for decades. Habitat destruction and overcollection of wild plants have decimated their numbers and endangered them, even in Big Cypress National Preserve. Fortunately, scientists like conservation ecologist Hong Liu are working to save them. She’s trying to find Cigar Orchids, or Cyrtopodium punctatum, to figure out how to protect them. It’s not easy to find rare plants in the 729,000 acre (295,000 hectare) preserve, even with a swamp buggy and the help of orchid lovers on social media. “If we see one plant, that’s a good day,” Liu said. “The majority of the searches, we see one or two. That’s the norm. That’s how sparse this population is over the huge size of Big Cypress.” After analyzing their data and presenting it to the park service, they plan to continue their work to conserve these breathtaking orchids.

Read more about this conservation work at

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