Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Anacamptis picta is a species very similar to the green-winged orchid (Anacamptis morio).

Description and photos of the Anacamptis picta.

The Anacamptis picta, which is very similar to the green-winged orchid (Anacamptis morio) and who some consider to be a subspecies (Anacamptis morio subsp. picta), is one of the most common orchids of the Cantabrian Mountains. It flowers from April to June depending on the amount of rain and temperature, and 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 distributed in a linear or pyramidal bunch on top of a stalk. The dorsal sepal and the lateral petals form together a helmet, covered or "winged" by the lateral sepals which have a prominent green or sometimes purple veins, much like the features of the green-winged orchid (A. morio). The three-lobed labellum or lip has a pale center with purple spots and the side-lobes are clearly folded backwards, which is one of the characteristics which distinguishes it from the green-winged orchid, which has a broad lip. The spur is relatively long and straight or slightly arched upwards with a dilated and flattened apex, which contains no nectar.
The colour is red-purple to pink, although very pale specimens can be found occasionally. The Anacamptis picta has normally 2 sessile tubers (meaning that they are attached to each other), with a great similarity to two testicles.


The Anacamptis picta is common on poor meadows, which are wet in winter and dry in summer, but is also frequent in not so dry and richer grasslands. It can be found on all sorts of soils but is more common on neutral and alkaline grounds. Like a lot of other orchids, the A. picta can be very numerous locally which can give the impression that they don´t need any special protection, which of course is not true. For instance, in some hay producing fields there may be thousands of them with densities of up to 150 orchids per square meter. Also I have found three very special and extensive sites with some hundreds of thousands orchids each.

A special fact about orchids is that one third of them are deceptive plants, which means that they reproduce deceiving their pollinators. The flowers of the A. picta have a conspicuous display and sweet scent to attract pollinators, which are mainly bees and especially bumble-bees, but which haven´t any nectar. The orchid is deceiving the bee because the poor insect thinks to get some nectar. Soon the bee leaves the flower to seek food elsewhere, but is possibly carrying a pollinia attached to its body, which may fertilize other flowers of the same species. Also the A. picta, like the green-winged orchid, doesn´t even mimic any other nectar-rewarding plants, but does benefit if there are lots of other rewarding flowers close by, which attract lots of bumblebees. The concept and hypotheses of deception will be treated in another post.

This is one of the special sites with a surface of about 10,000 square meters and thousands of green winged orchids.

The lateral sepals are like wings that cover the "helmet", the veins are green or purple.

In this photo the green veins are clearly visible. The lip is very broad, with a pale centre with purple spots and folded backwards. The color of the upper part of the stem is also reddish purple.

The leaves form a basal rosette, with some leaves sheathing the stem. The leaves normally appear in at the end of the winter of at the beginning of spring.

This specimen has a very robust stem.

This photo shows very great concentration of Anacamptis picta on a hay producing grassland, with a relatively rich and wet soil.

Sometimes there are albino specimen, especially in a field with thousands of orchids it is not rare to find a white orchid. The green veins are even more obvious.

These flowers have very dark spots and the folded lips are typical for this species.

About 25,000 square meters full of Anacamptis picta.

On this photo we can observe the purple bracts, which in this case are a little longer than half of the ovary.

This photo shows a detail of an albino orchid, which the yellow pollinia clearly visible.

A nice group together.

The spurs of these flowers or slightly dilated and flattened.

Some of the ovaries have set fruit, which in the case of deceptive orchids occurs normally in much less than half of the flowers.

The density can be great. I have counted up to 150 orchid per square meter. This can also be due to vegetative reproduction of the tubers.

The white flowers also have a green stem and green bracts. Observe the twisting of the ovary (resupination), the green veins and the yellow pollinia.

This shot confirms the generally low fruit set of the Anacamptis picta..

Just a pale orchid, between purple and white.


  1. Mooie blog over de Spaanse flora, wat een bloemenweelde, prachtig die orchideeën.
    Wij zijn regelmatig in de Spaanse bergen op vakantie geweest (Sierra Nevada, Cuenca, Sierra de Gredos en Sierra de Montsant) en ik was daar altijd onder de indruk van de ongerepte natuur.
    groetjes Ghita

  2. Ja Ghita, als je van de natuur houdt dan is Spanje een fantastish land (er is heel wat meer te vinden dan strand, zee en discos), en het weer is meestal ook niet slecht. En qua bloemen en dieren is het een paradijsje.

    Groetjes Marius.

  3. Ik kwam je tegen bij René, dus was even nieuwsgierig.
    Mooie orchideeën en hele leerazem informatie.
    Ik ken allen de natuur op Lanzarote en Fuerteventura.
    mijn droom is om nog en keer naar La Gomera te gaan.

    Groetjes, Helma

  4. Hoi Marius,

    Geweldig om te zien al die orchideeën.
    Nog even wachten dan groeien er bij mij in de buurt ook wilde orchideeën.
    En wel de lila/paarse soort.

    Bedankt voor het doorlinken van mijn 3 blogs als je favoriete Nederlandse blogs.

    Groet en een fijn weekend,