In 2014, the City of Coral Gables passed a resolution to enter into an agreement with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden to plant native orchids throughout the city. Although it is called the Million Orchid Project, the project only intended to plant 250,000 orchids. The agreement called for the city to provide $30,000 a year for five years for a total of $150,000 towards the plantings throughout The City Beautiful.
These orchids aren’t your common Phalaenopsis or Vanda plants seen beautifully blooming year-round throughout our neighborhoods. The South Florida native orchids being installed grow to bloom flowers nearly an inch wide — tiny. In fact, there are thousands of them on the trees along Miracle Mile. Have you seen them?
Official installation of these native orchids did not start until 2016. Over the past three years the city has installed 43,140 total orchids; falling short of the initial plan. The city now estimates it could take 16 years to reach the proposed 250,000 orchids, primarily due to a lack of Fairchild volunteers for the project.
At a City Commission meeting in February of this year, the commission voted unanimously to extend and amend the original agreement with Fairchild for a term of up to 10 years with up to five additional one-year renewals as needed to fulfill the 250,000 orchid installations. The extension did not grant additional funding.
The same time-extending resolution stated the city had only spent $13,482 of the $150,000 appropriated. However, a Gables Insider public records request showed that $43,482 had been paid leaving a balance of $106,518 for the project. The finance department called it a scrivener’s error. This does not include an additional $50,000 spent through the City Clerk’s office on an orchid tracking app created by Florida International University over a 3-year period.
If you need help finding these orchids, you can download the free tracking app. The app is available on the Apple App Store, by searching “Orchid Tracker”.