Native Orchid Project

Native Orchid Planting

Southern Florida is home to the greater Everglades ecosystem and a great diversity of tropical and subtropical species. Myriad of these species were wracked by massive engineering works, expansion of the agriculture and urban development over the last century. The beautiful and intriguing native orchids are a representative group of this declining biodiversity. Eighty species of orchids are native to South Florida, among which at least 10 have been extirpated and many others have been declared endangered by the various listing authorities. In addition to habitat destruction, unsustainable harvests of wild orchids to be used as household ornamental plants at the beginning of the last Century has also contributed to the dramatic reduction of wild populations of our native orchids. The entire region is now subject to many ecosystem and species-based restoration projects. The latter includes reintroduction of South Florida native orchids.
To provide FIU students with first-hand experience in South Florida native species restoration, the FIU Restoration Ecology course instructor Dr. Hong Liu, Associate Professor at the Department of Earth and Environment and an affiliated conservation ecologist at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG) is working closely with the FIU Office of Sustainability and the FIU student group GLADES to bring the FTBG’s Million Orchid Project onto FIU campus.  The Million Orchid Project is a mammoth educational effort working with Miami Dade County’s public school students to reintroduce or augment populations of selected native orchid species in Miami Dade’s urban setting.
The FIU’s native orchid project integrates the planting and monitoring activities as part of volunteer events of the Office of Sustainability and the annual Restoration Ecology class activities. The planting areas include the FIU Nature Preserve and other locations suitable for terrestrial and epiphytic orchids. This collaborative effort will maximize the education value of the planting project, and more importantly, sustain a long term ecological monitoring following the plantings. This project is a high level citizen-science research project, with undergraduate students as the main participants. Educational signage will be put up at the various planting sites to educate the general public about South Florida’s native orchids.