Dactylorhiza pythagorae f. albiflora

Foto: Kiros Kokkas

This orchid is only known from the Aeagean island of Samos. It is not variable, but in contrary unusually homogeneous, writes Wolfgang Eccarius in his book Die Orchideengattung Dactylorhiza (Eisenach 2016). But Kiros Kokkas found a white-flowered form of this rare orchid, which is usually flowering in pinkish to rose or mauve colors. This plant is obviously unique – but it also demonstrates that all the species of Dactylorizha tend to develop albiflora forms.

Foto: Kiros Kokkas

Lady’s Slipper without Chrysanthemin

Cypripedium calceolus

It’s very rarely that the Lady’s Slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus) is flowering without the brown-red color in sepals and petals. As with other orchid species this color is created by a pigment from the group of anthocyanines, called chrysanthemin. If this pigment is not produced, there are only carotinoids and chlorophyll left als coloring pigments. The results are yellow to greenish flowering plants. In contrast to Orchis or Dactylorhiza – but similar to Ophrys – the flowers of Cypripedium calceolus also contain chlorophyllum, thus participating in the photosynthesis.

No species of this genus has so many taxonomic descriptions of varieties as C. calceolus, writes Wolfgang Eccarius in his book Die Orchideengattung Cypripedium (Buergel 2009). In Thuringia, plants with pure yellow petals and sepals has been described as var. citrina by the teacher and botanist Bernhard Hergt (1858-1920), in Mittheilungen des Thueringischen Botanischen Vereins 1899, S.120f., indicated as f. citrinum by Eccarius.

A forma viridiflorum with greenish perigon (sepals and petals) has been described in the same journal in 1897 by Max Schulze (1841 – 1915). The author of the oldest of these descriptions is Alphonse Rion (1809-1856), who named a flava, a forma flavum, in his Guide du Botaniste en Valais, published in 1872.

Cypripedium calceolus

Those plants without Chrysanthemin also miss the common crimson dots on the staminodium at the entrance of the labellum.

Cypripedium calceolus

Orchis purpurea f. albiflora in Eastern Hesse

Orchis purpurea

Four decades after founding the Arbeitskreises Heimische Orchideen (AHO) Hessen (working group of native orchids Hesse) (on 3.3.1979), a conference in Sontra looks back and to the future. The meeting begins with a field trip to a heathland with juniper called “Buehlchen”, near Grossalmerode-Weißenbach (Werra Meissner district). Calcypedium is still in buds on May 18th, Neottia ovata has no inflorescence, but Orchis mascula ist beautifully flowering. Among them there are some plants with brighter flowers and an Orchis with a yellowish edge at its stigma.

Orchis mascula

In the afternoon, the AHO Hesse chairwoman Jutta Haas looks back: In the last 40 years we have done a lot. The first and still an important task is the field mapping of orchid places with the goal to protect and preserve them. The following lectures present the orchid flora in the North, the Middle and the South of Hesse – with interesting evidence of Albiflora forms, for example a group of five white-flowered Neotinea tridentata in North Hesse and the observation of Martin Hild: Dactylorhiza fuchsii is quite often flowering white in the mountain range of Taunus.

On the second day of the meeting there is a field mapping in the surroundings of Sontra. Near Moenchhosbach we record Platanthera chlorantha, Cephalanthera damasonium, Neottia ovata, Ophrys insectifera and Neotinea tridentata, which has an isolated occurence in Hesse and Thuringia – before I had only seen this species in the Mediterranean. It is interesting to observe the different color hues. Some plants are flowering quite bright, others haven intense crimson color.

In the afternoon we are visiting another heathland with Juniper near Berneburg, with Neotinea tridentata and efflorescent Orchis militaris. At a flower of Cardamine pratensis there was a couple of the orange-tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines).

Anthocharis cardamines

Finally we followed the hint of a conference participant and found the white-flowered Orchis purpurea, at the border of Hesse near Thuringia.

Orchis purpurea

Neotinea “immaculata” on Rhodes

In the pine forests of Profitis Ilias (798 m) on Rhodes, Neotinea maculata is still flowering in April. In addition to the common form with crimson spots on the tiny flowers with a labellum length of only 3 to 5 mm, there is also a pure white-flowered form. Labellum, sepals and petals don’t have the slightest hue. The leaves of these plants are also unspotted. So, the name of the species (maculatus – spotted) is turned into its opposite, and the plants appears as Neotinea “immaculata”, as unspotted Neotinea.

Among the other orchid species on Rhodes Anacamptis pyramidalis can be quite often found in its albiflora form – similar to its appearance in other regions.

White-flowered Orchis anatolica are less frequent than those forms of Anacamptis pyramidali. Even the light pink forms of this beautiful orchid are not very common. The crimson colour of the flowers seems to have a high genetical stability, at least on Rhodes.

“Orchideeën van de Benelux”

Karel Kreutz und Corinna Kreutz-Santen, Maastricht 8.3.2019

Turkey, Rhodes, Cyprus, Crimea – those are only some of the books about locations of orchids published by Karel Kreutz since 1998. Now he has presented a two-volume-opus about the orchids in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg: Orchideeën van de Benelux. The publication was accompanied by a symposium in Maastricht:

Among the lecturers was Daniel Tyteca of the Catholic University of Louvain, who presented the orchids of the Belgian regions Famenne and Calestienne. In the nature reserve of Lesse et Lomme alone, there are 31 species. Some of them, as Epipactis microphylla (2004), have only been proven a few years ago. Tyteca also pointed to colour variants of Anacamptis morio and Orchis mascula.

Those are shown in the book of Kreutz with special photos, as far as there are findings in the three Benelux countries. Albiflora forms are also shown of Dactylorhiza fuchsii, but interestingly not of Dactylorhiza maculata, Dactylorhiza majalis or Dactylorhiza incarnata – though there are albiflora forms of those species in other European regions. With Orchis militaris, Orchis simia and Orchis purpurea albiflora forms are also missing. Anacamptis pyramidalis is shown with a picture of an albiflora form of var. dunensis, which has been described by Londo, Kreutz and Sings in 2016. A hypochrome form of Ophrys apifera is also shown.

With regard to taxonomy Karel Kreutz is following the genus system of Daniel Tyteca and Erich Klein presented in 2008. Therefore Anacamptis morio is named Herorchis morio, Neotinea ustulata is Odontorchis ustulata. And Anacamptis laxiflora is introduced as Paludorchis laxiflora. But Kreutz is holding on to Aceras anthrophora und Listera ovata. The author concedes: Over taxonomie kan men sterk van mening verschillen – when it comes to taxonomy there are big differences of opinions. Zo is het onmogelijk om in dit werk een taxonomische indeling te hanteren, die voor iedereen aanvaardbaar is – therefore its not possible to present a classification which could be accepted by everybody. sei eine für alle akzeptable Klassifizierung nicht möglich. At least it would be desirable if the register at the end would also include the names which are used beyond the system of Tyteca & Klein.

In his opus Orchids of the Crimea, published together with Alexander Fateryga and Sergej Ivanov in 2018, Kreutz still followed the taxonomy which was developed by Richard Bateman, Alec Pridgeon und Marc Chase in 1997. The author explains the change to the system von Tyteca and Klein with their more recent genetical studies – although the conclusions are still controversial.

Next year Karel Kreutz will present a field guide Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Later on there is to follow a complete overview of the European orchids in ten volumes – expected for 2021/22, as it was announced in Maastricht. Since Pierre Delforge is following the taxonomic system of Tyteca and Klein since the 4. edition of his opus Orchidées d’Europe (2016), this taxonomy might achieve a broader acceptance in future.

starting a new flowering season

photo: Robert Crnković

In the Mediterranean, the new season is already in full blossom. From the Croatian island of Čiovo Robert Crnković sent me this photo of a Himantoglossum robertianum. It is flowering in the neighborhood of a splendid albiflora plant he found last year:

photo: Robert Crnković

Hypochrome forms of Neottia nidus-avis

Deutsche Botanische Monatsschrift, 1890

In a contribution for the Journal of European Orchids (Journal Europäischer Orchideen, vol. 50, 2-4, 2018, p. 221-226), Leslie Lewis presents an overview of the hypochrome forms of Neottia nidus-avis and new findings in England. In the introduction, she explains that these orchids have colour pigments – chlorophyll and carotinoids. However, colour variants are also occasionally found, the author writes.

Neottia nidus-avis f. nivea (Photo: Werner Hahn)
Deutsche Botanische Monatsschrift, 1891

It might be questionable ob these colour variants should have a taxonomic relevance. But at least there are scientific descriptions of such forms already in the 19th century, either as varietas (var.), forma (f.) or as lusus (lus.). Leslie Lewis presents those descriptions by Philipp Wilhelm Wirtgen (1806-1870),  Paul Wilhelm Magnus (1844-1914) and others. Following the Swiss botanist Gustav Hegi (1876-1932) she is presenting a consistent overview on the level of forms:

  • Neottia nidus-avis f. pallida: plants with pale yellow flowers
  • Neottia nidus-avis f. nivea: plants with snow-white flowers
  • Neottia nidus-avis f. sulphurea: plants with sulphur-yellow flowers

Calypso bulbosa forma albiflora

At the edge of the Arctic, Calypso bulbosa is one of the most Northern orchids. After snow smelting, from April to June, the plant is flowering in Northern Sweden or in Canada. It has rose to violet petals, the lip has a white or rose ground, with rose or violet spots. Albiflora forms are extremely rare.

In the Canadian National Park Banff, Jeroen Gerdes has found a white-flowered plant which still has its purplish color pattern in its hypochil. A purely white-flowered plant has been found this year by Marco Klueber in the Swedish province of Dalarna gefunden – here all the Anthocyanine pigments are vanished.  

The small plants grows in moist coniferous forests, on moss grounds. It’s a real dream to find it in this white-flowered form.

Orchid conference in Neumuehl: Rescue mission in Switzerland

An unusual rescue mission in the canton Zurich was subject of the 2018 orchids conference in Kehl-Neumuehl, Germany. In this Swiss region, nutrient-poor grassland and bright forests have been dramatically reduced, René Gaemperle explained. Reasons are – as in other regions – the over fertilization of the intense agriculture and the increased building activity: “Where the hills are most beautiful, country residences are built”, Gaemperle said.

In order to strengthen weak populations like Ophrys araneola, Gaemperle cooperated with officials and organized manual pollination, collection of seeds, mixture of seeds with river sand and sowing. If the appropriate symbiosis fungus is in soil, this method works rather soon, explained Gaemperle. The time from sowing to first flowering is just three to six years.

He chose a different method with Anacamptis coriophora: Seed capsules from the Lake constance habitat Wollmatinger Ried have been sent to an expert for in vitro culture in Sweden. The young plants have then been planted at seven places in canton Zurich, overall 525 plants until 2015. In this year 56 of those plants have flowered, Gaemperle told. When species are threatened by extinction, such methods are the only way to save them. “If we don’t act now, they will vanish forever.”

Threatened orchid species are also an issue for Peter Steinfeld who lectured about the nature reservate Bliesgau in the German state of Saarland. Steinfeld has been observing the changes of the regional flora for 35 years. According to him, Cephalanthera rubra is threatened by extinction in Saarland – he found the last flowering plants  in Bliesgau about 20 years ago. Heavily decreasing is also Dactylorhiza viridis. But Limodorum abortivum is expanding, probably coming from the French region of Lorraine. The same case is with Ophrys sphegodes and Orchis simia. As another “profiteer of climate change” Steinfeld named Himantoglossum hircinum. Climate change was also the subject of my lecture with impressions of this summer on Gotland, Sweden. Jean-Marc Haas also reported about dried out places in Uzbekistan.

At the conference with more than 60 participants from four countries, which was organized by Harald Baumgartner and Hubert Heitz, Helmuth Zelesny lectured about a field trip to the Golzentipp mountain in Eastern Tyrol, with colour variants of Nigritella rhellicani in white, yellow and carmine. In this region at the edges of the Lienz Dolomites Gymnadenia conopsea is also quite often white-flowered. Hybrids of both species display a big variety of forms. Not so common is the hybrid of Gymnadenia conopsea with Pseudorchis albida. Nigritella rubra is flowering on lime stone. The variety of the orchid flora on this Alpine meadows has also been described by Norbert Griebl in his paper published by AHO-Berichte.

Helmut Presser lectured about new taxons related to Ophrys holoserica and Ophrys scolopax in France as there are Ophrys demangei and Ophrys quercophila, the oak loving Ophrys. Hartmut Moeller again showed impressive photos of pollinators, this time he observed Epipactis palustris with potter wasps, bumblebees and beetles.

Albiflora orchids on Gotland

There have been a couple of botanical travel reports from Gotland with findings of white-flowered orchids, especially of Dactylorhiza incarnata. This year, I’ve finally visited this Baltic Sea island, in a quite warm and dry summer.

Dactylorhiza incarnata

Such Dactylorhiza incarnata f. albiflora without any color hue have been quite rare – on my round trip by bike I’ve seen four plants. That translates into an estimated ratio of two or three per 1000 plants, which is quite the relation to be expected. Quite more often have been plants with a light yellow hue, although those could not always be addressed as the subspecies (or other taxonomic order) ochroleuca.

It was obvious that Dactylorhiza incarnata, possibly the orchid with the biggest population on Gotland, is occuring here in an marked color polymorphism – from white (very rare) to yellow (occasionally), light violet/pink (common) and the dark purple (common) flowers of the cruenta form which is sometimes viewed as a subspecies.

With Orchis mascula there have also been albiflora forms in the frequency to be expected from genetical mutations. In all those plants the pattern of purplish points in the flower lips has been preserved.

On a meadow near Oestergarn there was a beautiful white-flowered Gymnadenia conopsea among hundreds of plants..

Following a hint by Marco Klüber I also found an almost white-flowered Orchis spitzelii in a pine wood on the Northwestern coast. The color hue was still recognizable, the loss of pigments not as far reaching as here. But it’s still an indication that this orchid species also shows a genetical inclination to develop albiflora forms.