Tag-Archive for » Orchis «

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 | 

orchis_olbiensis

Orchis olbiensis has a colourful and a light variety, as it is stated by Kretzschmar/Eccarius/Dietrich in “Die Orchideengattungen Anacamptis, Orchis, Neotinea” (Buergel 2007, p. 322). The light variety has flower colours between rose and almost white – with a colourful lip pattern contrasting to the light background. The white-flowered plant comprises almost half of the populations in Spain, the authors observed – quite in difference to the almost purplish flowers of Orchis olbiensis in France.

Five years after visiting Orchis olbiensis for the first time in Southern France, I had now the chance to study Orchis olbiensis in Southern Spain, in the province of Malaga. Though in mid-April I’ve been quite late for this species, I found two albiflora forms of Orchis olbiensis in the limestone formation of the Torcal, near the small town of Antequera. The greater plant had nine almost white flowers with the fine purplish dots still conserved. In this habitat there were also growing Anacamptis papilionacea, Ophrys scolopax and Orchis mascula subsp. laxifloraeformis.

orchis_olbiensis_2

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Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 | 

On the occasion of a visit to Prague I looked up some specimens at the Charles University Herbarium (PRC). In order to help a friend, I searched for the holotype of a plant which was described by the Bohemian botanist Ignaz Friedrich Tausch as Ophrys purpurea (Flora; oder, (allgemeine) botanische Zeitung. Regensburg, Jena 1831) – now regarded as a synonym of Ophrys apifera or as Ophrys apifera var. tilaventina. The holotype was said to be in the herbarium in Prague, so I searched several packages of Ophrys specimen there, with the much appreciated help of PRC’s curator Jan Stepánek.

The holotype of Ophrys purpurea was not there, but I found an interesting specimen collected by the French botanist Jean Michel Gandoger (1850-1926):
Ophrys apifera
The description carries the information that Gandoger collected this plant in 1879 near Algier as Ophrys apifera f. elata, formerly described by Tausch as Ophrys purpurea:
Gandoger specimen

At the end of my visit I searched a further package of specimens with dried Orchis plants – hoping to find a albiflora specimen. Instead I detected a specimen collected by Tausch as Jan Stepánek confirmed by examining the hand-written label with the nomber “1470″ attached to the stipe of the plant:
Orchis mascula
A further label written by an unknown person has the information: “Orchis mascula L. vom berge Rhadisken bei Leitmeritz” – this information matches the catalogue of “Fundorte der Flora Boehmens nach weiland Professor Ignaz Friedrich Tausch’s Herbarium Florae Bohemicae alphabetisch geordnet von Johann Ott”, published 1859 in Prague:

So who was this Ignaz Friedrich Tausch? The Bohemian botanist was born on January 29th, 1793, in Udrči near Karlovy Vary. After his thesis about “De inflorescentia” (1835) he was director of the botanical garden of duke Canal de Malabaillas in Prague. He studied a broad spectre of plants and published “Bemerkungen über einige Arten der Gattung Paeonia” (1828) as well as his Flora Bohemiae (1831). Tausch was all his life rather poor, Stepánek told me. So he sold dried plants ot different herbariums. Tausch died on 8th September 1848 in Prague.

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Friday, June 03rd, 2011 | 

Orchis simia
Exploring the Crimean Pensinsula for orchids, species like Comperia comperiana, Steveniella satyrioides or Orchis punctulata are especially noteworthy. Albiflora forms, though, are quite rare in this Ukrainian region. Vladimir Isikov of the Nikita Botanical Garden told me that he has seen only three species with white-flowered forms: Orchis simia, Neotinea tridentata and Anacamptis morio ssp. caucasica (which he referred to as Orchis picta). Obviously there are no orchid species on the Crimean Peninsula heading to a direction which favours white flowering.

But near тылобое (Tylovoye) we found an edge of a forest with a group of 26 Orchis simia under a pine and 5 albiflora plants among them. In this small population there was obviously some kind of reproduction of the white-flowered plants.

Neotinea tridentata has a marked variability, as it is also noted by H. Kretzschar, W. Eccarius and H. Dietrich in their book „Die Orchideengattungen Anacamptis, Orchis, Neotinea“ (Buergel 2007, p. 206/207). On the Crimean Peninsula the dominant colour of flowers is light purple. I’ve found 3 white flowered plants, which led me to a rough estimate of 2 albiflora plants per 1000 Neotinea tridentata.
Neotinea tridentata

Among the Anacamptis morio, Orchis mascula, Orchis purpurea or Anacamptis pyramidalis seen on our 10-day-trip there have been no white-flowered plants. But in a forest near гончарное (Goncharnoye) there was an albino form of Epipactis helleborine.
Epipactis helleborine

Beyond the orchid flora I noticed white flowers of Polygala major, the endemic Onosma taurica and Papaver spec. Interesting was also a Polygonatum odoratum with half white leaves.
Polygonatum odoratum

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Sunday, May 01st, 2011 | 

The Flower of the European Orchid

Form and function of the flower organs are the main focus of the new fascinating book The Flower of the European Orchid by Jean Claessens and Jacques Kleynen. Illustrated by great macro as well as microscopic photos this important opus presents a comprehensive description of the structure of orchid flowers with the different European genera. In a foreword, Richard Bateman writes: „No other family of plants can match the orchids for their sheer charisma“. But the excitement goes along with a certain scientific pain – Bateman stresses that there still remain major scientific uncertainties which „further torment us“ – among them questions of evolutionary adaptation.

The orchids’ strategies of fertilization are manifold and the book explains how the specific construction of the column (gynostemium) supports allogamy by pollinators or autogamy (self-fertilization). Especially intriguing are the strategies of Dactylorhiza, Orchis and other genera without any nectar in the spur. Claessens and Kleynen explain that the pollinators of Orchis mascula are „recently emerged, naïve bees or exploratory insects that have not yet learned that the flowers offer no reward” (p. 220). The authors also cite the study of L. Dormont, R. Delle-Vedove, J.-M. Bessière, M. Hossaert-Mc Key und B. Schatz about the presence of white-flowered Orchis mascula which underlines „the importance of visual cues for attracting pollinators“ (p. 220).

In the Dactylorhiza chapter the authors write: „Colour can also influence pollinator behaviour“ (p. 240). With regard to the red and the yellow forms of Dactylorhiza sambucina they refer to experiments showing that experienced bumblebees „preferred by far the morph that most resembled the rewarding plant on which they have fed previously“. Vice versa it may be presumed that there may be a form of evolutionary adaptation directed to develop visual cues which are different from non rewarding plants being abundant in a certain region – as it could be the case in Western Ireland with the many white-flowered forms of Dactylorhiza fuchsii on meadows with earlier flowering Orchis mascula.

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Tuesday, September 07th, 2010 | 

White-flowered orchid varieties are not just a “freak of nature” – they have quite obviously some biological function. A group of scientists in Montpellier in Southern France has found that the existence of albiflora plants in a population of Orchis mascula is connected with a much higher fruit set of the purple-flowered plants than in populations where there are no white-flowered Orchis mascula:

“Surprisingly, our study showed that the presence of co-occurring white-flowered individuals led to significantly higher reproductive success of nearby purple-flowered individuals (mean fruit set 27%), while white-flowered plants themselves had the same low fruit set (6%)”, the authors of the study – L. Dormont, R. Delle-Vedove, J.-M. Bessière, M. Hossaert-Mc Key and B. Schatz – wrote in their article in New Phytologist (2010) 185: 300–310. The flowers studied – overall 11 709 at 805 plants – showed almost the same increased fruit set when the researchers planted some ping-pong balls which mimic the white Orchis mascula inflorescences: “The effect was virtually identical in magnitude (fruit set increased from 6 to 27%), whether the nearby white-coloured object was an O. mascula inflorescence or a ping-pong ball.” The nearer a purple-flowered plant to the white colour, the higher was the fruit set developed due to a successful pollination.

The authors explain their surprising results with pollinator behaviour after visiting Orchis mascula who belongs to the food-deceptive orchids: “It seems plausible to suppose that after unrewarding visits to purple flowers, naïve pollinators probably avoid homogeneous populations of purple flowers, and may then preferentially orient to a different colour or to a colour contrast such as a mix of white and purple flowers.” Pollinators of Orchis mascula are bumblebees (Bombus, Psithyrus), solitary bees (Eucera, Nomada, Andrena, Apis) and the beetle Cetonia aurata.

The albiflora varieties are quite rare in the populations studied in Southern France: The authors counted 0.9 to 1.4 percent in different populations. But this is much higher than the percentage which could be assumed in the case of spontaneous mutations affecting floral pigmentation genes with an average of just 0.1 percent. Regarding the higher percentage of albiflora varieties with Orchis mascula the authors state that “it is unlikely that such high frequencies could be the result of repeated spontaneous mutations alone” – and this should also apply to the case of other orchid species with a higher percentage of white-flowered plants like Anacamptis morio or Dactylorhiza fuchsii in Western Ireland.

The white-flowered Orchis mascula themselves have only a low fruit set, but they “help” the purple-flowered plants of their species to be pollinated. “In O. mascula, the presence of whiteflowered variants might be regarded as an adaptation that benefits the purple-flowered relatives of white-flowered morphs, rather than providing a direct benefit to whiteflowered individuals”, the authors wrote and assumed that there is some “mechanism of kin selection” responsible to grant a higher percentage of albiflora plants.

The scientists in Montpellier are pursuing their research with other species as well. Laurent Dormont wrote me that they have also studied white-flowered plants of Calanthe sylvatica on the Caribbean island of La Réunion (the results to be published in Plant Systematics and Evolution and also the floral volatiles of white-flowered orchis species.

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Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 | 

Orchis militaris
It seems to be a good year for Orchis militaris – the meadows in biking distance from Frankfurt are full with violet inflorescences. And this time, in the fifth year of continous observation, there is a second albiflora form of an Orchis militaris, just ten meters away from the place of the first plant. It has a height of 20 cm, a rosette of three leaves and about ten flowers. The reproduction of albiflora forms is difficult, since the DNA sequence responsible for the lack of flower pigments is recessive, but here it has obviously happened. The first albiflora plant is about 30 cm tall, with five foliage leaves and about 25 flowers:
Orchis militaris

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Saturday, January 02nd, 2010 | 

In OrchideenJournal 3/2009, Josefa and Richard Thoma describe how they have found two white flowering plants of Orchis spitzelii for the first time in a region they have been visiting for about 20 years. This location in the Alps near Salzburg is the only place where Orchis spitzelii can be found in Austria.

In June 2009, the couple counted 17 plants when Josefa was surprised to find two white flowering Orchis spitzelii. “I didn’t trust my ears”, writes Richard Thoma describing his feelings when his wife exclaimed: “Two whites!” The author named the rare color variation “Orchis spitzelii f. albovirida” – with regard to the green perigone containing chlorophyll pigments.

“Why now, of all times?”, Thoma asks and is looking forward to next year when the want to see if the white forms appear again.

Maybe it’s more than just a “freak of nature” as Thoma is assuming. More substantial research is needed to see if there is a certain function which could explain why certain orchid species develop albiflora forms. Special thanks to Richard Thoma for contributing his photos of the white flowering Orchis spitzelii to albiflora.eu.

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Monday, April 27th, 2009 | 

 

The new orchid season has begun, and the white flowering Orchis militaris in my neighborhood is already showing its buds. This year, there might be several “albiflora” plants at this place. The plants seem to be healthy and strong. The long winter was no problem for them, and there was enough humidity in March and April.

 

Afterwards I visited a meadow in the Rheingau, the region west of Wiesbaden, with plenty of Anacamptis morio. I estimate that there are about 800 plants, 5 of them with white flowers. This would mean a ratio of 6 Anacamptis morio “albiflora” per 1000 plants – a bit higher than my general estimation of 3 to 5/1000. This confirms that Anacamptis morio has a high tendency to develop white flowers. Today, most Anacamptis morio on the meadow are in full flower. But it’s remarkable that the blossom of the white flowering plants is quite advanced. Some flowers are damaged, especially at the spur (photo). Two years ago, on 6 May, I’ve been at this place near Johannisberg the last time. I didn’t observe this phenomenon at that time. On the lower meadow some Orchis mascula were growing then, which I couldn’t find today

At last I was visiting a place in the Wisper valley as I’ve heard that there had been several white flowering Orchis mascula. In the mixed oak forest I find about 25 mascula in the purple standard colour, but no albiflora forms.

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Wednesday, July 16th, 2008 | 

Noch eine Fundmeldung von Orchis quadripunctata “albiflora” vom Monte Gargano bei Monte San Angelo – aufgenommen im April dieses Jahres und zu sehen bei TrekNature – auch diese Pflanze ganz weiß, ohne Punktzeichnung auf der Lippe.

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Wednesday, May 07th, 2008 | 

Inmitten von violett blühenden Orchis militaris wächst mindestens das dritte Jahr in Folge eine Albiflora-Form. 2007 war sie wegen der Trockenheit im April etwas verkümmert, in diesem Jahr macht sie wieder einen sehr kräftigen Eindruck. Diese Pflanze hat also immer wiederkehrend weiße Blüten.

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