Monday, May 27, 2013

Wild orchids in Spain: Anacamptis picta

Deze post in het Nederlands: klik hier.

  A huge field filled with tens of thousands of wild orchids of the species Anacamptis picta.


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. As often, not everybody agrees with this name and this orchid is also known as the Anacamptis morio subsp. picta, and formerly it was known as the Orchis morio subsp. picta. Whatever its name, suddenly we saw a field which was really packed with orchids. Fortunately, the field was not grazed by cattle, although grazing at the right time of the year is rather  positive for orchids. 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. Of course something special like this has to be shared, although the exact location can´t be mentioned

READ FURTHER AND ENJOY THE PHOTOS.                                           

Anacamptis picta, as far as the eye can see.

This photo shows the spike of the Anacamptis picta. The dots are clearly visible, which is one of the characteristics that distinguishes it from the A. champagneuxii.

In many places they are so close together that you must carefully find your way.

The purple glow at the background reveals the presence of many tens of thousands of orchids.

Other features which distinguishes the Anacamptis picta from the A. champagneuxii are: the lobes of the lip are less folded back, they have more flowers and the spike is taller. Also, in proportion the spur is shorter.

This photo leaves no doubt about it: the numbers are overwhelming.

The members of the section Moriones have clear stripes on the petals and sepals which form the helmet. In the Cantabrian Mountains we can find three Moriones: the green winged orchid, the Anacamptis picta and the Anacamptis champagneuxii.

The orchids cover an area of 10 hectare and with a high density, which in many places is between 50 and more than a 100 specimens per square meter. Even with a density as low as 5 specimens per square meter there must be about 500.000 orchids. But the density is significantly higher.

The purple haze at the background isn´t from the heath but from the orchids.

Occasionally you can find a pink or white specimen. In this field they are not common, but the few white orchids which are present can be found in a small zone and within this zone there are three very small groups. So there must be a genetic factor at work, or else they would be scattered over the whole field.

Detail of a white Anacamptis picta.

The orchids reach to the farthest corners of the field.