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US, Cuba Researchers Collaborate On Ghost Orchid Study

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IMMOKALEE (CBSMiami/AP) – U.S. officials say the diplomatic thaw with Cuba has led to a new collaboration with the island's scientists to study the ghost orchid—one of the world's rarest flowers.

Ernesto Mujica of Cuba's Ministry of Science ECOVIDA Research Center has joined researchers from Illinois College and the University of Florida in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge to study ghost orchids. The delicate blooms were the star of the book "The Orchid Thief" and the movie "Adaptation."

The five-decade-plus Cuba trade embargo and travel restrictions to the island inhibited orchid researchers in both countries from sharing data.

Mujica waited two years for a U.S. visa to visit Florida before his application was approved this year.

This month, Mujica helped document ghost orchids throughout the refuge and demonstrated long-term monitoring methods he uses in Cuba.

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