Orchids for Lehigh Acres: A project to reintroduce the flowering plant to its home

Published: May 27, 2022 4:28 PM EDT

Nature has a way of replenishing itself even in the most difficult conditions. That is the hope for hundreds of baby orchids being planted at Goodlad & Swank Insurance in Lehigh Acres.

Dr. Jason Downing with the Million Orchid Project at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami drove the native Florida plants all the way from South Florida for planting.

“We are attempting to put one million of our lost orchids back in nature. These are orchids that are native, that were once here but were lost due to poaching and habitat loss,” said Dr. Downing.

The Million Orchid Project is the nation’s largest educational outreach program dedicated to orchid conservation. Over 20 community partners and hundreds of schools are providing sanctuary to the native Florida flower.

Dr. Downing says orchids once grew on trees all over Florida before the Florida East Coast Railroad came through in the late 1800s.

Butch Swank offered his business as a site for nearly 500 orchids.

“We are trying to make it so where they are not rare. If we get enough up in one place, they have babies and basically everybody in the neighborhood can have free orchids,” said Swank.

Swank says his father Ralph always enjoyed orchids and a gift from one of his clients sparked the idea to plant hundreds of them at his insurance office.

“He’s been generous enough to share a piece of this so we can have part of what he has. He’s won multiple awards. It’s an amazing plant and quite rare,” said Swank.

Rare and now in good care, Swank already has plans to keep them watered and growing.

“A manatee, a bald eagle. I mean you name it. If it’s something that is rare and beautiful and you want to protect it, I mean that’s just human nature,” said Swank.”

Bringing the beauty back to Southwest Florida one orchid at a time.

If you would like to get involved in the Million Orchid Project, contact Dr. Jason Downing at [email protected]