Albiflora abundance on Sardinia

Anacamptis morio subsp. longicornu
Anacamptis morio subsp. longicornu

There are two forms of albiflora mutations with orchids:

  • the spontaneous growth of a white-flowered form as the consequence of a genetical defect in the process of creating anthocyanine pigments, traditionally called a freak of nature, Occurence: 1-5 among 1000 plants
  • populations of white-flowered mutations as the result of an evolutionary adaptation to environmental conditions, e.g. the concurrence of other violet-flowered food-deceptive orchids, occurrence: 10 to 500 among 1000 plants

I’ve found both forms on the Sarcidano plateau, a central region of Sardinia.

On lengthy hikes between Láconi, Ortuabis und Santa Sophia I’ve seen only one single albiflora form of Orchis mascula subsp. ichnusae, with the crimson marking of the flower labellum still preserved:

Orchis mascula subsp. ichnusae
Orchis mascula subsp. ichnusae

Before, I had already seen a single Orchis anthropophora without its typical flower colouring, in the forest of Domusnovas, on southern Sardinia:

Orchis anthropophora
Orchis anthrophora

Much more frequently are the white-flowered forms of Anacamptis morio subsp. longicornu in Sarcidano. Respectively one third of the overall several thousand plants in this region has the dark violet colouring, a bright violet (or rose) colouring or are white-flowered.

Anacamptis morio subsp. longicornu
Anacamptis morio subsp. longicornu
Anacamptis morio subsp. longicornu
Anacamptis morio subsp. longicornu

You can’t find this accumulation of albiflora forms in other regions on Sardinia which I’ve visited, neither at Domusnovas/Iglesias nor in the North or at Monte Albo. There, Anacamptis morio subsp. longicornu are consistently flowered in the regular violet. The albiflora forms of Sarcidano possibly have an evolutionary advantage. In this region there are also many Orchis mascula subsp. ichnusae giving pollinators as bees the learning experience that there is no nectar in the spur at flowers with this colour and form. In the other regions Orchis mascula subsp. ichnusae was less common or not present.

Anacamptis morio subsp. longicornu
Anacamptis morio subsp. longicornu

Colour AND form variety of Anacamptis morio

Anacamptis morio
Oops, that’s a quite special Anacamptis morio which Norbert Griebl has found near Sittendorf, southwest of Vienna. In addition to the absence of anthocyanins (which happens quite often with this species) the lip has the same form as the sepals, with green veins. Here, not only the colour of the flower has changed, but also its morphological pattern.

Where have all the flowers gone…


Last year, about 800 Anacamptis morio have been flowering in the Rheingau region, west of Wiesbaden – among them five with white flowers. This year, only ten plants are flowering, a decrease of 99 percent. And there wasn’t any Anacamptis morio f. albifora on the meadow. Hiking around the neighboring woods I met a huntsmen who was sawing logs. He told me that wild hogs are probably the cause why the orchids have been diminished to such a great extent. The long lasting winter has done its part to prompt the hogs searching for orchid roots. On the adjacent meadow I’ve found about 20 Orchis mascula in the beginning of flowering.

Orchis militaris “albiflora”, budding 

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.