NAPLES, Fla. — Southeastern Sunflower fields, a rare ghost orchid and even rarer panther sightings — that’s what’s going on at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples.

What You Need To Know

It’s two-and-a-half miles of boardwalk around 20 square miles of Florida Wilds that includes some 500-year-old trees.

“Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary protects the largest remaining tract of old growth bald cypress forest in the world,” said Renee Wilson, the senior communications coordinator for Audubon Florida, the sanctuary owners.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, in Naples, hosts some trees that are 25 feet around and 120 feet tall.

The Audubon Society protects Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which is 13,000 acres of wild Florida.

And the sanctuary is host to the rare and elusive ghost orchid; the protected plant usually blooms from July to September.

And it’s not the only rare sighting as a visitor recorded a Florida panther on the boardwalk in 2016. The panther rushes past trying to avoid her.

There was also another even briefer encounter in 2021.

“They are reclusive, and they don’t want anything to do with people,” said Wilson.

The great irony, they need humans to survive. And so does Corkscrew.

“Places like this area are disappearing forever, and once they’re gone, we can’t make them come back,” said Wilson. “I hope more people realize we can do more to keep them safe.

We need to use our voice as much as possible to stand for what’s important.”