Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Flowers of the Mani Peninsula: Part 1 - Orchids

Chris and I are just back from a week's rambling in the Mani peninsula, in Southern Greece. We have had almost twenty holidays with Ramblers but this must count as one of the most enjoyable: interesting walking in a lovely landscape, excellent weather and, above all, the companionship of a friendly and interesting group ably led by the excellent Julia Cooper.

The holiday was billed as "Flowers of the Peloponesse" but given the wealth of archaeological sites in the area it was not surprising that, for many, these were the main attraction. For flower-lovers the orchids were eagerly sought - and found in some abundance. 

The first species to be noted was a Tongue Orchid. I was a little disconcerted by this as there are about ten species to be found in the Mediterranean area - and they can be tricky.

Serapias vomeracea near Gythio, Greece
20 April, 2014

This, I am fairly certain, is the Long-lipped Serapias, Serapias vomeracea, a widespread species found from Spain through to Turkey (but see below*). It was growing beside a track overlooking Gythio. One really needs to collect a specimen for examination with a hand lens but, like most people, I am reluctant to pick these flowers. It was noted several more times during the week.

Pyramidal Orchid near Gythio, Greece
20 April, 2014

The Pyramidal Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis, was noted on a couple of occasions. It has a very widespread distribution, including Britain, and is found on a range of soils, including (obviously) the strongly alkaline soils of the Mani Peninsula. Often the flowers are of a deeper lilac shade.

Four-spotted Orchid,
Anavriti Gorge, Greece.

25 April, 2014

This dainty orchid was found towards the end of the week in Anavriti Gorge, where it was flowering in considerable numbers. Known as the Four-spotted Orchid, Orchis quadripunctata is usually found on limestone and can occur in a white form. It shuns too much shade and was blooming on open ground beside the track towards the top of the gorge.

Orchis italica. Anavriti Gorge, Greece.
25 April, 2014

Closely related, though looking strikingly different, is the Italian or Naked Man Orchid, Orchis italica. This photograph was also taken in Anavriti Gorge but the species was not plentiful, Despite its name it is widespread in the Mediterranean and in some areas is one of the commonest orchids.

I make no apology for including a second photograph showing a little more detail.

Man Orchid,  Orchis anthropophora.
Anavriti Gorge, Greece. 25 April, 2014

The gorge held further treasures. The Man Orchid, Orchis anthropophora (formerly Aceras anthropophorum) was represented by a number specimens which, for some unaccountable reason, I found very difficult to photograph. This curious species is widespread across south-east England but is threatened through loss of habitat and has Red Data Book (RDB) status. I was therefore delighted to find it flourishing in damp, semi-shaded spots. In my own county of Northamptonshire the species does occur but is very rare and I have never found it there.

Orchis anatolica. Anavriti Gorge, Greece
25 April, 2014

I freely admit that this next species has caused a deal of head-scratching. However I am fairly sure it is   Orchis anatolica. It is very similar to Orchis olbiensis but the latter is more likely to be found in the more westerly parts of the Mediterranean region.

Orchis anatolica near the top of
Anavriti Gorge, Greece. 25 April, 2014

A sort of confirmation came with the finding of this lovely white orchid. Orchis anatolica frequently occurs in this white form and some very good images are to be found on the internet. Anatolia is an ancient name for (roughly) modern Turkey, but the species is found from the islands of the Aegean through to Iran.


Now for the Ophrys species noted. The identification of species within this genus can be tricky and will often provoke intense debate. It appears likely that the genus is still evolving and therefore occasional specimens occur which seem "half way" towards evolving into a new species. Nevertheless, the plants seen by us on our rambles seem reasonably problem-free and can be matched confidently with written and illustrated descriptions available. For the record I have used: 

 "Mediterranean Wild Flowers" by Marjorie Blamey and Christoper Grey-Wilson

 "Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Southern Europe"  by Paul Davies and Bob Gibbons

"Flowers of South-west Europe" by Oleg Polunin and B.E.Smythies (which, despite ostensibly being restricted to the flowers of Spain, Portugal and western France, proved quite useful).

Woodcock Orchid near Gythio, Greece.
20 April, 2014

The first to be seen was the Woodcock Orchid, Ophrys scolopax. It was growing beside a track near Gythio but was seen elsewhere later. The yellowish structures on the side of the flower, sweeping forward like a cow's horns, show it to be the subspecies cornuta. This is sometimes given full specific status as Ophrys cornuta.

Another Woodcock Orchid, showing subtle variations. If a variety like this becomes geographically isolated, perhaps in a ravine or on an island, it will be well on its way to evolving into a new species.

This not very good photograph shows the Eyed Bee Orchid, Ophrys argolica. It is apparently endemic to Greece and is quite rare, being found in an area estimated as no more than 500 km sq and on the UICN Red List of Threatened Species it is classed as "vulnerable", with threats listed as uncontrolled building work, crop spraying and tourist pressures. It has been seen by previous ramblers, being on the 1998 list provided by Julia. Blamey and Grey-Wilson suggest that it has a wider range, as far east as Turkey and including Cyprus, indicating the difficulties faced when dealing with Ophrys species.

Ophrys iricolor. Anavriti Gorge,
Greece  25 April, 2014

Next comes Ophrys iricolor, sometimes called the Rainbow Ophrys. It is close to the Sombre Bee Orchid, Ophrys fusca, and a degree of variation in flower shape creates identification problems. However, my photograph matches well with illustrations in books and on the internet.

Oddly enough it had never been my intention to search for orchids but the sharp eyes and enthusiasm of Julia coaxed me into giving them more attention. And very interesting it was!

* I now believe I was wrong. It is Serapias cordigera


No comments:

Post a Comment