Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Orchid Archive

The Structure of an Orchid Flower.

Introduction: I decided to write this post because I personally had some difficulty in finding clear pictures which explain the basal anatomy of an orchid flower. It seems that in every picture some basic parts were missing. In this entry I first give a brief summary of the basic parts of a common flower (stamen, carpel, sepals and petals), to continue with the basic parts of an orchid flower and followed by a more detailed description of the gynostemium (column). The structure of the labellum (lip) will be treated in another post because of its great complexity and diversity and its importance for identifying the ezact species.

Photos of some orchids found in north eastern León.

Introduction: In Spain, the Cantabrian Mountains (Cordillera Cantábrica) are widely known for its rugged and unspoild nature and its great abundance of animals and plants. Less known is the wealth of wild orchids. In a recently published book about the orchids of the north east of the province of León (Guía de orquídeas silvestres de la Montaña Oriental Leonesa), no fewer than 55 species and 10 hybrids have been determined. Since this publication some new species have been found.

Orchis purpurea or the lady orchid.

Introduction: The lady orchid or Orchis purpurea is a conspicuous orchid, both due to the height of the flowering stalks (25 – 100 cm) and the dense inflorescence with lots of purple-white flowers. It even may be too conspicuous, because it makes them prone to flower picking. It is a perennial plant who´s leaves appear above ground in the winter, normally in January or February. These more or less lanceolate leaves, this is with a rounded base tapering towards the apex, are relatively big and parallel-nerved (like all orchids). In the Cantabrian Mountains flowering takes places during April and May. The flower has a spur without nectar, so it is a food-deceptive orchid, but they produce a sweet odour and are pollinated by bumblebees or butterflies.

The Anacamtis picta. 

Introduction: The Anacamptis picta, one of the most common orchids of the Cantabrian Mountains, flowers in April, May and June, the exact time depending on the amount of rain in late winter and early summer and upon the altitude and orientation of the habitat. The unspotted and lanceolate leaves grow in a basal rosette with some leaves sheathing the stem almost up to the flowers. The inflorescence has normally between 6 and 25 flowers, although it can be slightly less or much more, which are loosely distributed in a linear or pyramidal bunch on top of a stalk. The dorsal sepal and lateral petals form together a helmet, covered or "winged" by the lateral sepals which have prominent green or sometimes purple veins.

The Anacamptis champagneuxii.

Introduction: The Anacamptis champagneuxii is a rare and purple colored orchid from the western Mediterranean, also present in the strip of wild nature directly adjacent to the Southern Cantabrian Mountains.The genus Anacamptis is divided into sections and the Anacamptis champagneuxii belongs to the section Moriones which also include the green winged orchid (Anacamptis morio) and the Anacamptis picta, which are all present in the Cantabrian Mountains.The species name champagneuxii is in honor of the French botanist Champagneux (1774-1845).

The somber bee-orchid and the giant orchid.

Introduction: We are talking about the giant orchid ( Himantoglossum robertianum, formerly classified as  Barlia robertiana) and the somber bee-orchid ( Ophrys fusca ), also called the dark bee-orchid. The giant orchid will already be blooming in the second half of February  and most of the somber bee-orchids will flower in March. The giant orchid is certainly not a common orchid in the Cantabrian Mountains, but we still managed to locate some groups with up to 20 flowering specimens.Of the Ophrys fusca we have found a very promising area right on the seashore with hundreds of plants in bloom and also some hitherto unknown smaller populations scattered around Asturias.

A new location of the Orchis italica (naked man orchid).

Introduction: The Orchis italica is a Mediterranean orchid whose distribution is mainly located in the southern half of Spain, while in the north of Spain their are only two known territories (see map). Two weeks ago I found three specimens of Orchis italica in the neighbourhood of Cistierna. The Orchis italica is known in English as the naked man orchid, due to the form of the individual flowers which resemble a naked male form. The spike is very densely packed with flowers of a purple-pink-whitish colour. The petals and sepals are all curved upwards forming a kind of helmet covering the column. The lip is long and has the shape of a man, with arms, legs and a third protuberance.

A field with 500.000 orchids of the species Anacamptis picta. 

Introduction. About 10 days ago by chance we encountered a huge field full of wild orchids. They were all of a species which is fairly common in the southern Cantabrian Mountains: the Anacamptis picta. The numbers of A. picta were truly overwhelming, so much that there was a purple glow over the field. The surface of the field is about 10 hectares (measured from air photos) and a very conservative estimate is that there are significantly more than five hundred thousand (500,000) orchids.

The first orchid of the new year.

Introduction: To my great pleasure, last February 8 I have been able to see the first flowering orchids of the Cantabrian Mountains of this year. Because this winter is actually relatively mild and damp, these orchids have appeared  more than a week earlier than last year. Off course these orchids were not yet in full bloom, but on the lower part of the spikes many orchids had already several flowers. The orchid  I am talking about is the giant orchid or Himantoglossum robertianum.


  1. Mooie foto's van de orchideeën Marius en leerzame info!

    Groeten uit Nederland,

  2. Bedankt Willy,

    Er zijn hier heel veel wilde bloemen, maar ik heb me gespecialiseerd in orchideeën. Die hebben toch echt iets speciaals.



  3. Hello, Marius
    Congratulation for your beautiful work!
    I added your blog to follow your posts.
    Greetings from Brazil

    Helô Spitali
    Community Orquideas - Orchids

  4. Muchas gracias Helô.

    Un cordial saludo.