In my capacity as general manager of the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and secretary of the Cayman Islands Orchid Society, I would like the opportunity to clarify some of the facts that were stated in the recent article titled ‘Dutch keep seized orchids’ and the editorial in the same issue titled ‘Cayman orchids in captivity.’
First, I want to make it clear that the Botanic Park had no intention of auctioning off these orchids. This was an idea of a PR firm in the UK that was tasked with promoting the Cayman Chelsea exhibit to the UK/European market. When it was pointed out to the PR firm that endangered species (all orchids are classified as endangered) cannot be auctioned, the idea was dropped. Unfortunately, this idea got posted on-line and once something ends up on the Internet it never goes away.
It is correct that the plants were to be donated to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for its permanent collection.
Secondly, these orchids are not worth $80,000. This dollar value is another example of incorrect information being perpetuated both in print and on-line. Our concern regarding these incorrect astronomical values being placed on these orchids is that it could actually harm the conservation of these species. Individuals, especially in these hard economic times, may see these vast sums and then go into the wild stripping the trees bare of these endangered orchids in the false belief that they will earn easy money.
The fact is that Cayman Banana Orchids can be purchased from nurseries in both Florida and Jamaica for as little as US$25.
The Cayman Islands Orchid Society has been working for years to raise the awareness of the increasingly endangered orchids native to the Cayman Islands and to actively work toward the conservation and propagation of these plants.
The Orchid Society has a modern orchid propagation lab at the Botanic Park where dedicated Orchid Society volunteers work diligently propagating the most endangered of these species. The article gives the wrong impression that the Orchid Society is somehow not up to the task of propagating the Ghost Orchid by seed.
Plant propagation can be a very complex problem for some plant species and the Orchid Society believes that the Ghost Orchid may be one of these plants. While we wish the Dutch every success, if they choose to try and propagate these orchids by seed, the Orchid Society has its own ideas on why the seeds produced so far have not been viable and we have every expectation to be successful in the near future.
Andrew L. Guthrie
General Manager, Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
Secretary, Cayman Islands Orchid Society