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November 25, 2015


The Players

Life after Phragmipedium kovachii.

Gina Edwards | 12/1/2004
Phragmipedium kovachii
Decimated from its four known growing locations in the wild, the rare orchid now survives in the black market. A single plant has fetched as much as $10,000.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Located in downtown Sarasota, Selby is the first botanical gardens in the nation to face charges under the Endangered Species Act. It was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and was sentenced to three years' probation. "We're not going to fall down on our face," says Barbara Hansen, Selby board chairwoman. "We had a hiccup due to some circumstances that were very unusual."

Meg Lowman
Lowman recently published a college textbook called "Forest Canopies." Her new book, which she co-authored with her sons, Eddie Burgess, 19, and James Burgess, 17, is called "It's a Jungle Out There -- More Tales from the Treetops." It's due out next summer.

Michael Kovach
On Nov. 1, U.S. District Judge Stephen Merryday sentenced Kovach to two years' probation and ordered him to pay a $1,000 fine.

Wesley Higgins
Still employed at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Higgins says he alone "took the fall for the gardens."

Eric Christenson
The thwarted rival says botany has yet to come to grips with how to deal with smuggled plants. In the past, gardens have handled endangered plants with a wink and a nudge, Christenson says. But the back stabbing and intrigue surrounding Phragmipedium kovachii has made a dent. "The level of paranoia is through the roof in the orchid world," Christenson says.

Tags: Around Florida, Agriculture

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