Orchids Planted at West Kendall Baptist Hospital as Part of Conservation Project

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August 11, 2017

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Once thriving, tropical native plants in South Florida, orchids have been decimated through exploitation and reduced habitat over the last century. With the help of volunteers and employees at West Kendall Baptist Hospital, the experts at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden hope to change that. The garden’s Million Orchid Project aims to reestablish native orchids in the urban landscape through conservation and restoration efforts with partnering community entities.

(Video: The Baptist Health South Florida News Team hears from volunteers and employees at West Kendall Baptist Hospital about the hospital’s participation in an orchid conservation program. Video by Tony Vivian)

“It’s extremely important to us as members of this great West Kendall community to look for opportunities to partner with others to keep our community green and beautiful,” said Lourdes Boue, vice president of operations at West Kendall Baptist Hospital. “We’re happy to plant our first orchids here with Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden as part of their Million Orchid Project.”

The West Kendall Baptist Hospital and Fairchild collaboration is projected to last for two years with hopes of planting and cultivating more than 2,500 orchids on the hospital property.  The benefits extend far beyond beauty.

Jason Downing, an orchid biologist at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, recognizes the conduit orchids provide for engaging the public through their beauty.

“The connection is what brings the project together,” he explains. “This project, in general, is really unique in its scale and ability to integrate the community.”

Mr. Downing added that 100 percent of the plants being placed on the hospital’s property are from volunteers in the community. While orchids thrive naturally in the local climate, many think of them as disposable potted plants. Changing the perception from something disposable to permanent in the urban setting requires some creative thinking, he said.

“It’s a very different twist on traditional conservation where we go deep into the natural areas and pull these plants out. Instead, the Million Orchard initiative focuses on places in the urban landscape like streets, trees, schools, community centers, churches and hospitals,” Mr. Downing said.  “It’s really a fast forward look at what conservation may look like in the future as we lose more of our natural areas.”

According to Fairchild, the Million Orchid Project is a massive science experiment that allows people to make important discoveries about how native orchids grow and reproduce. Additionally, the project’s scientific findings may help develop more general strategies for rescuing rare plants within a highly developed urban environment.