Gymnadenia conopsea

Gymnadenia conopsea
Photo: Holger Disse, 15/06/2006, near Jena/Thuringia, Germany

Fragrant Orchid

Gymnadenia conopsea (the Greek word konos means a midge) can grow to a height of 35 to 100 cm. The plant has 5 to 12 foliage leaves which are linear-lanceolate, almost gramineous. The rich inflorescence has 20 to 140 small flowers with a fine scent. They are tightly arranged in a cylindrical form and have a distinct long bract. The spur is very long and bented downwards, the lower part is filled with nectar. Petals and the middle sepal form a small hood. The lateral sepals are spreaded. The broad and rather short labellum is three-lobed.

Gymnadenia conopsea
Photo: Peter Zschunke, 08/07/2009, near Puflatsch/Alto Adige, Italy

Taxonomic discussion

The name conopsea goes back to Linné who described this plant as Orchis conopsea in his opus Species plantarum (1753). The present name was defined by Robert Brown who separated the genus Gymnadenia from Orchis in 1813.

Gymnadenia conopsea
Photo: Klaus Hess, 18/06/2007, near Rosswald/Valais, Switzerland

White colour of flowers

The flowers of Gymnadenia conopsea are mostly pale-purple, rose or pink. Plants with pure white flowers are rare, but may be found regularly at places with many Gymnadenia conopsea. The white forms have been described as “forma (or var.) leucantha” or as “var. flavida”.¬†The species is nonetheless very variable.

Gymnadenia conopsea
Photo: Norbert Griebel, 04/07/2008, near Peitzen/Carinthia, Austria

Habitat, bloom and distribution

Gymnadenia conopsea can be found on grassland as well as in forests or fens in large parts of Europe and Asia, up to 2800 m. It flowers rather late, from May to August.

Gymnadenia conopsea
Photo: Peter Zschunke, 28/06/2009, near Schluechtern/Hesse, Germany
Gymnadenia conopsea
Photo: Peter Zschunke, 28/06/2009, near Schluechtern/Hesse, Germany