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Million Orchid Project

November 26, 2013

Scientists are bringing orchids back to Miami’s trees.



Bright blooms, big city. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Florida orchids grow in sterile flasks at Fairchild Tropical Gardens. The colored foil topping each flask indicates the month the seeds were planted. (Bob Hirshon)

South Florida was once home to millions of orchids, growing and flowering on the branches of trees. Now, scientists at Fairchild Tropical Gardens, along with dozens of volunteers, are working to bring the flowers back. Dubbed the Million Orchid Project, the plan is to propagate four different species in a laboratory and to glue them onto thousands of Miami-area trees. The glue dissolves as the orchids’ roots take hold. Botanist Carl Lewis is Fairchild Tropical Gardens’ Director:

CARL LEWIS (Fairchild Tropical Gardens):

The interesting thing about this project is that it’s restoration in an urban area. So this is doing conservation in places where people live, where people commute, where people recreate, and we’re getting a lot of support and great feedback from our residents in south Florida.


Similar efforts to re-establish native flowers in urban areas have taken root in many cities, from Seattle to Singapore. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.