Ghost Orchids and Land Scams: A Review

| Bonnie Patten

The Orchid Thief, by Susan Orlean, leads us through exotic jungles, backyard gardens, and world-famous greenhouses all in search of the rare ghost orchid, Polyrrbiza lindenii.  Notably, this endangered flower lives in Florida’s Fakahatchee, which is also home to one of this nation’s largest land scams ever.

Brothers Julius and Leonard Rosen began their deceptive marketing careers with television ads for Formula Number 9, a shampoo containing lanolin that they claimed could grow hair on a bald man because “Have you ever seen a bald-headed sheep?”  After making a small fortune off their shampoo, in 1966, the brothers moved on to Florida real estate.  Following a long line of swampland swindlers, Orlean explains how these two men, through hard-line sales tactics and blatant lies, were able to convince thousands to purchase Floridian swampland in the middle of nowhere and make millions.  While this history of deception only makes up a small portion of Orlean’s story, it definitely got’s attention.

Bonnie Patten

Bonnie, executive director of, is an attorney and mother of three. Her commitment to educating the public about deceptive marketing stems from her belief that education is the only…

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