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Orchid Fever Undid My Column

An orchid smuggler entered a guilty plea and, I confess, all I saw was the irony in a fellow charged with sneaking contraband flowers into South Florida, a smuggler's paradise for drugs, guns and illicit human cargo. But a couple of readers reminded me of more serious ramifications when someone like Mac Rivenbark  attempts to bring 1,403 exotic orchids into South Florida.

Mike Hunt of Homestead wrote that my column  "reads like this is almost funny. I, for one, am not laughing."

Hunt writes: "

"You reported part of the story in 'Smuggler of orchids is a rare species'. The part that you did not get is that even though this type of activity decimates wild populations, the smuggling of plants, fruits and vegetables into the United States is almost certainly responsible for the introduction of many of the plant diseases and insects such as citrus canker and citrus greening, to name two.
"Just these two diseases have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in economic damage to the citrus industry in Florida, not to mention the costs to taxpayers. There is no longer a Lime industry in Florida because of canker.
"I believe that as a grower, Mac Rivenbark should know the dangers of smuggling plant material into this country and should rightfully go to jail for a long time to discourage him from doing the same thing again and hopefully dissuade others"

Louis Rodriguez, a member of the American Orchid Society, the Coalition for Orchid Species, and the East Everglades Orchid Society, that my column describing the smuggling of "orchid species native to the Philippines was particularly disturbing.

"The actions of Mr. Mac Rivenbark reflect nothing less than pure unethical greed rather than pure orchid-crazed obsession. His actions are a direct opposite of the mission of the American Orchid Society. The mission of the American Orchid Society is to promote and support the passion for orchids through education, conservation and research.

"Conservation includes preservation of orchids; conservation of and advocacy for habitat, and influence global regulations on orchids.

"I hope that in addition to being punished with a hefty fine, Mr.Rivenbark is banned from further participation and exclusion of membership in the AOS. Furthermore the dept. of Agriculture should also discipline this greedy thief of species that are protected by many Federal and International laws that protect these beautiful and rare flowers from precisely the crime committed.

"I certainly hope the legal arm of the AOS will punish this criminal with stiff penalties in order to prevent acts like this from ever happening again."

I admit. There were important issues here that I ignored.


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