Five Things You Never Knew About Orchids in Honor of Fairchild's Million Orchids Project

Categories: Culture

Courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Encyclia tampensis.
It may seem like orchids are everywhere in Miami. The tropical treasures jump out at us from roadside stands; peer down delicately from treetops; add a colorful hue to many a Florida room. But as it turns out, there used to be a whole hell of a lot more orchids around here than there are now. Like, millions more.

Most of the orchids you see around town aren't native species -- the originals were decimated by people picking and exporting them back in the day. But Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden aims to change all that with their Million Orchid Project. They'll be propagating a million new plants in their shiny new lab, then working with local schools and municipalities to cover the city with these lush blooms. In honor of this ambitious endeavor, here are a few things you probably didn't know about the beautiful blossoms.

See also: Ricardo Trillos of Cao Chocolates on the Fairchild Chocolate Festival, Single-Origin Cacao, and Life as a Chocolatier

5. Orchids make excellent city dwellers.
Fairchild Director Dr. Carl Lewis originally got the idea for the Million Orchid Project from a trip to Singapore, where he saw them doing something similar. Turns out, the orchids are thriving, right in the middle of the metropolis.

"What caught my attention is that they were not just planting those orchids in forest environments, but putting them in the middle of the city among the skyscrapers and some of the busiest streets of Singapore. They're all orchids that grow on trees, so they actually coexist very well in an urban environment as long as there are street trees," Lewis says.

Courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Micropropogation of orchids
4. There are about 50 orchid varieties native to South Florida. But they're not necessarily the ones you see most often.
The ones you buy on the roadside, for instance, are mass produced elsewhere, Lewis says. Most of the area's original natives were decimated decades and decades ago.

"We are working with an initial group of three species that would have been fairly common around here 150 years ago," he says. "As the project progresses we will probably add more."

Location Info


Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL

Category: General

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Rich Newell
Rich Newell

Yeah, most of the people you see around Miami aren't native species either (everyone seems to be from somewhere else).

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