Hot weather brings hope rare ghost orchid could bloom at Chelsea, growers say

A spell of hot weather is bringing hope that a rare ghost orchid could bloom at Chelsea for the first time in the UK.

Temperatures are expected to reach highs of 24C on Saturday or Sunday, following a gloomy start to the Spring.

The Florida ghost orchid has been brought to the flower show by a group from US Botanical Gardens as part of a conservation exhibition on the species.

There are only around 1,500 Florida ghost orchids left in the wild, making them one of the world’s rarest flowers. In 1994 a horticulturalist was arrested for attempting to poach a ghost orchid in a heist that became the subject of a book and later a film, Adaptation, starring Nicholas Cage and Meryl Streep.

The flower, which is leafless, normally blooms in humid temperatures above 30C in the day – well above the sub-20C temperatures seen at the Chelsea Flower Show this week.

If it blooms this week, conservationists believe it will be the first time a Florida ghost orchid has ever been in flower in the UK.

Its minders have resorted to wrapping heat packs around the flower at night to encourage the flower to bloom, but are also hoping a mini-heatwave could give it a boost.

“Bud development is still progressing,” Johanna Hutchins, from the Chicago Botanic Garden, which helped coordinate the exhibition, said. “We’ve been keeping moisture up so that coupled with the warmer temperatures today should be a significant help, especially with the addition of humid heat at night.”

Nick Ewy, director of collections at Naples Botanical Garden, said the exhibition was intended to highlight the decline of orchids, which he said was a “canary in the coalmine” for the impacts of climate change and human encroachment. The ghost orchid is currently under consideration to be classified as an endangered species.

“When the habitat starts to degrade, you start having issues,” he said. “Conserving the orchids is a big deal but the habitats that they are occurring in are also really special places.”

The Met Office had predicted record heat on Wednesday afternoon, but temperatures fell slightly short of Monday, when a high of 23.4C saw it become the hottest day of the year so far.

Now the forecaster believes temperatures could hit 24C on either Saturday or Sunday.

Though not technically a heatwave, which means temperatures of 25C to 28C for three days, the Met Office said it was slightly hotter than average for May.

The warmer weather will not be experienced by all, with the east coast of the UK only expected to see highs of 15C over the Bank Holiday, the Met Office said.

Monday saw the hottest day of the year so far, with 23C recorded in parts of south Wales.

Grahame Madge, spokesman for the Met Office, said: “There will be little if anything in the way of rainfall apart from the odd very very light shower.

“For most people it will be fine and bright with some varying amounts of cloud day by day, but nothing that should trouble anybody.

“It’s probably slightly above average for May but the month has been a different feel with quite a lot of cloud and low temperatures, so it’s great we’re seeing these sorts of temperatures lasting into and over the Bank Holiday weekend and into the early part of next week.

“There’s some potential for cloud into the early part of next week that will lower temperatures and brightness a little.”

From the start of the meteorological summer, June 1, bright conditions will be expected to dominate more, the spokesman added.

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