Dendrophylax lindenii

Dendrophylax lindenii

Dendrophylax lindenii or ghost orchid is a rare orchid without visible stem or leaves that consists mainly of roots and flowers.

It is found in Florida and Cuba where it is an endangered and protected species.

The plant plays a central role in the nonfiction book The Orchid Thief (Susan Orleans) which is also the subject of the film Adaptation.

It is part of the family Orchidaceae, sub-family Epidendroideae, tribe Vandeae, sub-tribe Angraecinae, genus Dendrophylax.


The stem is greatly reduced. The leaves are reduced to scales.

The plant consists mainly of flat, fleshy, green roots that are responsible for photosynthesis and absorbing moisture. The outer layer of roots, or velamen, is responsible for absorbing nutrients and moisture and protects the inner layers.

The flowering takes place between June and August with 1-10 fragrant flowers that bloom successively. The flower is white, 3-4 cm wide and 7-9 cm long, and borne on a spike that grows from the network of roots.

During the scenting peak in the early morning, the smell is the fruity like the smell of an apple. The lower petal produces two long branches that twist slightly down and look like the hind legs of a jumping frog. The bracts are thin, dry, membranous, and papery.

Because the roots of this orchid blend so well with the tree, the flower often seems to float in the air, hence the name ghost orchid. The ghost orchid prefers Annona glabra or Fraxinus caroliniana, where it grows at eye level or a few feet above.

Pollination is done by the giant sphinx moth, the only local insect whose trunk is long enough.

Common names:

Ghost orchid, Palm polly, White frog orchid


Aeranthes lindenii, Angraecum lindenii, Polyrrhiza lindenii, Polyradicion lindenii


Florida, Cuba


This orchid is an epiphyte, anchored in a network of a large, tangled mass of roots on a tree. It is found in moist, swampy forests in southwestern Florida and Cuba.


Dendrophylax: from the Greek dendron (tree) and phylax (gardian)
Lindenii: named after Jean Linden, a renowned Belgian plant collector from the 19th century who traveled to South America and owned an orchid farm in Ghent, Belgium.



Diurnal: 24-29 °C
Nocturnal: 15-20 °C


A light spot: a window on the east.


Should be protected from draft.


Mist regularly. Do not use water from a water softener or tap water. Tap water can be decalcified with 1 ml of vinegar (8%) per liter of water. You can also use distilled water.


70 %


Mount on a slab of bark with the roots exposed.


Provide specialized orchid fertilizer diluted to 1/4 of the recommended dilution. Administer when misting, every two weeks.



Very difficult, done in sterile conditions on agar agar. The plant is usually sold in bottles, seeded by professional growers. Because the species is threatened, it is recommended to buy only from reputable growers.