Rare Orchids Poached From Flower Pot Island

Rare Orchids Poached From Flower Pot Island

Believe it or not, your precious orchids can actually be hot items in the eyes of thieves, too.

A rare breed of orchid, which according to authorities is of significant cultural value, has reportedly been filched from Flowerpot Island, a popular tourist destination Fathom Five National Marine Park located on Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada. The orchid poaching incident happened last June.

The Stolen Orchid

The orchid in question is the big round-leaved orchid or round-leaved bog-orchid native to certain parts of North America. In the scientific community, this orchid is known as the Platanthera orbiculata.

A perennial orchid plant, which blooms during the months of summer and early fall, the round-leaved bog-orchid has an inflorescence (spray of flowers on a stem), of up to 30 large, greenish-white flowers with a linear, elongated lip and a long spur which spreads out from behind the flower.

Based on the website of the North American Orchid Conservation Center, the round-leaved orchid can normally be found thriving in these natural habitats:

  • Mesic - a type of habitat with a well-balanced supply of moisture. For example, a mesic forest, a temperate hardwood forest, or a dry mesic prairie
  • Woodlands, both coniferous and deciduous – a forest with an open canopy of trees that allows the sunshine in
  • Shaded bogs – a freshwater wetland of soft, spongy ground made of peat, or decayed plant matter

Reports say the orchid plant had been in the park for more than a decade and was used by Parks Canada staff for research purposes.

Orchid Conservation Status

Around the world, sources say the round-leaved bog-orchid is quite in abundance.

However, it’s a different scenario in other places, such as in the United States, where this orchid plant which can also be spotted, including Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Under the watch list, the conservation status for this exceptional orchid species vary depending on location, but usually range from:

  • Extremely rare – a species with low population level at risk of extinction
  • S-rank – a state level conservation status reflecting the rate of extinction
  • Historical – a species not seen for several years
  • Special concern – a species that has suffered a decline and which existence is threatened)
  • Extirpated – a species not seen in many years, with a low likelihood of rediscovery).

Bruce Peninsula Orchid Festival

The Bruce Peninsula is an unbelievably beautiful orchid paradise in Flowerpot Island.

A botanical marvel, people from different parts of the globe who come to visit can feast their eyes and photograph up to 42 unique orchid species -- including the round-leaved bog-orchid --  ferns, and other exceptionally rare flowers, such as Lakeside Daisy and Dwarf Lake Iris. It even has a checklist of all the orchids you can see on the island.

Because orchids can be sensitive and given the fact that it’s almost impossible to successfully transplant wild orchids, the park has a strict policy against any form of disturbance or assault toward its prized orchid plants, which include trampling, digging up, or picking them from their natural habitat.

The same goes for all kinds of flowers. As a matter of fact, taking away of any plant from any national park in Canada is punishable by up to a $25,000 fine for a first offense.

Orchid Poaching

Parks Canada wrote about the incident on their official Facebook page, which was followed by 13,000 users, in hopes of leading to clues to the culprit and as to why he/she/or they did it. The management believes the suspect targeted the round-leaved bog-orchid.

“I can't comment specifically on those but I can tell you that there are enthusiasts that are interested in orchids both in the wild just for looking at them and also people that have collections of orchids. We know that that occurs; there are lots of orchids shows all over the place,” Ethan Meleg, an external relations manager at Parks Canada, responded when asked about what he thinks is the motive behind the orchid theft was.

The illegal hunting of wild orchids, otherwise known as orchid poaching, is an old practice that dates as far back as the Victorian era.  Orchid hunters track down and remove endangered orchid species from their natural environment to sell in the black market or as a trophy to keep as part of a personal collection. 



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