20. Orchis lactea: ‘No Milk Today?’

Habitats: Lambou Mili to Aqueduct & Kafkares, Palios.

Orchis lactea, Lambou Mili > aqueduct, © Jan van Lent 12-03-13 #139

Orchis lactea Poiret 1798.
Neotinea lactea (Poiret 1798) Bateman, Pridgeon & Chase 1997.
The Orchis tridentata-group, on Lesvos Orchis tridentata and Orchis lactea, but maybe also Orchis conica and Orchis commutata. 

HUNTING: It can be Greek to (synonym for: seem strange to) go out in the Orchid Paradise when the chance to get wet is almost 100%. But after days of heavy rains you sometimes have to take your chance if you want to go out and photograph Orchids when it is dry, even though it will be just for a few hours. So on the 12th I jumped into my car and drove quickly to Lambou Mili – in the centre of Lesvos – to continue photographing a series of Pseudophrys (among others the new Ophrys sancti-isidorii – see blog 18) next to a parking spot in the pine forest just before the old village itself. After shooting them I decided to walk (with complete camera equipment) to the entrance of the track leading to the old Roman Aqueduct, because the sun was shining, the birds were singing and everywhere you looked I saw masses of beautifully coloured Anemones. So maybe there are also some early orchids to shoot, I thought bearing in mind that in this habitat I found in recent years Ophrys umbilicata, leucadica, sitiaca, pelinaea, leochroma, minutula, Orchis morio picta, lactea and papilionacea.

Orchis lactea, Lambou Mili > aqueduct, © JvL 12-03-13 #135, #140, #142.

HABITAT: Coming into the fields leading to the aqueduct and walking down hill I saw tens of Orchis lactea, the Milky Orchid, flowering between the olive trees, no sign of others – or let alone Pseudophrys yet. So bearing in mind the phrase ‘first come first served’ I decided to work on the Milky Orchid. When I almost reached the aqueduct an enormous bang shuddered through the valley, I looked up (normally I look down, kneel down or I lie down) and saw that the sky was completely black. (I should have seen that before because the existing light was quickly fading away and I had to open my lens more and more and revalue the iso-rating). So I grabbed my equipment (I had already once had a not so pleasant thunder & lighting experience up from Agiasos – see Blog 13 ‘Just A Forest’) so I started running up hill. Well, too late; the first very big raindrops were already hitting me & my camera. In short: before I had reached my car I was soaking wet and my camera still dry. But I had my shots of those very beautiful, just opening and fresh Orchis lactea.

Orchis lactea, Lambou Mili > aqueduct, © JvL 2-04-12 #040   

RESEARCH: Until recently I was quickly done with my research on the Milky Orchid, because ‘everybody’ agreed on the morphological appearance, the name, date and author of Orchis lactea Poiret 1798. But ‘things’ are maybe changing because in 1997 R. M. BATEMAN, PRIDGEON & M. W. CHASE reshuffled a lot of species in the genera Aceras, Anacamptis, Neotinea, and Orchis (see also blog 19 ‘Heroes’, Orchis papilionacea). But apparently not everybody was so enthusiastic about this genetic-approach, because until 2007 the authors below did not change the species generic names. So let’s have a quick look at the history of the Orchis lactea name since 1980:

SUNDERMANN (1980): Orchis tridentata ssp. lactea (Poir. 1798 p.sp.) Rouy 1912 and var. albiflora (Macchiati 1881 p.lus.).
KREUTZ (Türkei 1998): Orchis lactea Poir. 1798.
KREUTZ (Rhodos, Karpathos 2002): Orchis lactea Poir. 1798.
KREUTZ (Cyprus 2004): no Orchis lactea on Cyprus.
KRETZSCHMAR ET AL., (Crete & Dodecanense 2004): Orchis lactea.
In their chapter HYBRIDS they show a photograph of Orchis lactea x Orchis tridentata, taken on the 13th of April 2000, so quite early for being O.tridentata and quite late for being O.lactea.
DELFORGE (2005): Orchis lactea Poiret, synonym: Neotinea lactea (Poiret) BPC 1997*. Delforge made an Orchis tridentata group with Orchis lactea, Orchis conica, Orchis tridentata, Orchis commutata, Orchis ustulata and Orchis intacta. Looking at his O.conica I see a lot of resemblance with KRETZSCHMAR’s Orchis lactea x Orchis tridentata. And going through all my lactea and tridentata photographs I found those pictures taken on the 10th of May 2006 (too late for lactea) below Sanatorio (Agiasos).

Orchis conica? Sanatorio Agiasos © JvL 10-5-2006 #7667

BAUMANN et al. (2006) Orchis lactea Poir.
But they also have Orchis lactea ssp. conica (Willd.) Kreutz, which is of course in their opinion a synonym of Orchis lactea and they described Orchis lactea var. conica (Willd.) H.Baumann & R.Lorenz, so from the authors themselves; a very surprisingly new taxon which is not yet clearly separated.
By the way: as a synonym they also have Neotinea lactea (Poiret) BPC 1997*.
KARATZÁ (2007): Orchis lactea Poir. And surprisingly: Orchis tridentata var. commutata, in the Mt.Olympos area, above 600 meters.
CLAESSENS, J. & J. KLEYNEN, (2011): Neotinea lactea (Poiret) BPC 1997*.
PETROU ET AL. (2011): Neotinea lactea (Poiret) BPC 1997*, synonym: Orchis lactea Poiret and Neotinea commutata (Todaro) R.M. Bateman.
TAYLOR (2012): Orchis lactea Poir. 1798.

Orchis lactea or Orchis fetanea? Kafkares > Palios, © JvL 12-03-10 #040

So we have only SUNDERMANN who wrote O. tridentata ssp. lactea; 7 orchidologists who go for Orchis lactea and two who adapted BPC*’s 1997 lactea  switch from  Orchis to Neotinea.

The three species side by side, © JvL: O. lactea 2-4-12 #003; O. conica 10-5-2006 #7654; O. tridentata 26-4-11 #040.

BOTTOM-LINE: Two years ago I was (on the same date) hunting orchids on the road to Palios, as I approached the Kafkares habitat where I found the year before a lot of Orchis morio and Orchis lactea. Now this habitat was full of cows because some farmers have the habit to put all their livestock – goats, sheep, cows, calves and bulls – into ‘waste’ land, thus: nature. I’m not so afraid of the bulls but if cows have small calves they can mercilessly raise their horns at you. And they eat and trample of course MY orchids into the ground. But I start really looking under and IN the bushes and oh yes, there they were: Orchis lactea. So cows, sheep, milk and Milky Orchids can merge together. And maybe, one day, there will be a new orchid on Lesvos: Neotinea fetanea.

 Kafkares, © JvL 12-3-2010 #068, habitat Orchis lactea and Orchis picta.

Jan van Lent, Lesvos, 18-3-2013.

* BPC 1997 stands for ‘genes approved and authorized’ by R. M. BATEMAN, PRIDGEON & M. W. CHASE 1997’, but is much shorter. Maybe I’m even going to make a stamp of it.

‘No Milk Today’ by the ‘famous’ Greek singer Vassilikos (2011).

And for people who wish to see the original: ‘No Milk Today’ – Herman’s Hermits 1966.

Latest ‘news’: Himantoglossum robertianum forever vanished (dug up) from Eftalou. 

Himantoglossum robertianum in Eftalou, © JvL 7-04-12 #042

Ex Himantoglossum robertianum in Eftalou, © JvL 19-03-13 #012


19. ‘Heroes (but just for one day)’: Orchis papilionacea.

Habitat: Palios.

Orchis papilionacea, Kafkares, Palios, © JvL 2-03-2013 #063.

Orchis papilionacea (ssp. papilionacea) Link 1799 or
Anacamptis papilionacea (L.) R. M. Bateman, Pridgeon & Chase 1997.
Orchis papilionacea L ssp. heroica (E.D. Clarke) H. Baumann 1986.
Anacamptis papilionacea L ssp. heroica R. M. Bateman, Pridgeon & Chase 1997.

Orchis papilionacea, Kafkares, Palios, © JvL 2-03-2013 #051

REMARKS: Okay, papilionacea you think. Yes, I know, the Butterfly Orchid looks still very straightforward but there are some changes in the air! Some orchidologists are writing these days Anacamptis papilionacea instead of Orchis papilionacea. Again, a name change, yes, but this time more radical. This is home swapping from one genus to another! Why is this necessary? For almost 200 years, from 1799 until 1997, all biologists, orchidologists and Orchis papilionacea itself were very happy with the genus name Orchis inside the big Orchidaceae family. But now, it should be Anacamptis papilionacea (L.) by R. M. Bateman, Pridgeon & Chase?

HUNTING: You do not have to hunt for papilionacea because you can find them on the whole island. Moreover, it is difficult to miss them; between March and May you almost stumble over them. The earliest Orchis papilionacea species I discovered was in the middle of February in the neighbourhood of Palios, the most northeastern part of Lesvos (see Blog 3. ‘The Romans are still here!’). Now I went there on the 2nd of March, but in 2011 I was already there on the 21st of February and on that date O. papilionacea, O. morio s.l. and Dactylorhiza romana were doing the Miss Orchid 2011 beauty contest, finally won by miss Dactylorhiza romana. This time it cost me a lot of effort just to find THREE flowering Butterfly orchid on those habitats and Orchis morio s.l. was very NOT around. And except for my two ‘old pals’ Dactylorhiza romana behind the rotten trunk, they were also not around in such numbers as they were two years ago. So after all this is maybe not such a very early orchid season? (Another remarkable observation: there was not ONE O. papilionacea around on the 1st of March 2010, only Dactylorhiza and Orchis morio s.l.).

Orchis papilionacea, Kafkares, Palios, © JvL 2-03-2013 #040

Orchis papilionacea, Kafkares, Palios, © JvL 21-02-2011 #173

RESEARCH: In the opinion of many orchidologists, the Orchis papilionacea on Lesvos are Orchis papilionacea ssp. heroica. So let’s read some Heroic Butterfly history to see where it all went ‘wrong’.
SUNDERMANN (1980): Orchis papilionacea Link 1759 ssp. papilionacea. Okay.
KREUTZ, ‘Die Orchideen der Türkei’, (1998): Orchis papilionacea Link 1759 ssp. papilionacea in the northern region of Turkey and papilionacea ssp. heroica in the South-west Mediterranean region. Ah, was it this sentence where it all comes from? Some orchidologists believe that all the eastern Greek islands are in the southeast, opposite the Turkish south-west Mediterranean coast! However, Lesvos is not! It is almost a part of Çanakkale and Balikesir, bordering on the northern region of Turkish Anatolia, where also the name ‘heroica – heroic’ came from: Troy. I think that if you go searching in the whole province of Çanakkale you will find BOTH AND Orchis papilionacea ssp. papilionacea AND O. papilionacea ssp. heroica. As I did on Lesvos.
KREUTZ (1998): O. papilionacea ssp. heroica has ‘a shorter and wider egg-shaped inflorescence, besides bigger flowers and a rather, broad egg-shaped, light pink coloured lip.’
‘O. papilionacea var. papilionacea has a looser inflorescence, smaller flowers and a rather small, reddish violet coloured lip with the edges sideways raised.’
KREUTZ (2002) in ‘The Orchids of Rhodes and Karpathos’: only Orchis papilionacea ssp. heroica  on Rhodes and Karpathos (because those are south-eastern Greek islands – JvL) and Orchis papilionacea ssp. schirwanica (Woronow) Soó 1927 on one habitat in the northeast of Rhodes.
KREUTZ (2004): ‘The Orchids of Cyprus’: the reddish-violet Orchis caspian Trautvetter 1873 is exclusively found on Cyprus, and Orchis collina, but no Orchis papilionacea or heroica. This Caspian Butterfly Orchid is also found on only one habitat in the south of Cyprus.
KRETZSCHMAR et al. (2004) in ‘Orchids Crete & Dodecanese’ mentioned Orchis papilionacea ssp. heroica (because this is the South-east Mediterranean region – JvL) and Orchis papilionacea ssp. alibertis G. & H. Kretzschmar, a ‘tall, lanky plant with few flowers, in its appearance resembling a very slim Orchis papilionacea ssp. rubra. Lip of the flower clearly smaller than in O. papilionacea ssp. heroica, around 10cm in diameter, edge of lip directed upwards, thus the lip is spade-like’. And: ‘Number of flowers on the spike minimal.’

O. papilionacea ssp. alibertis? Moria. © JvL 5-03-2010 #118

DELFORGE (2005) divided the Orchis papilionacea group into 3 species: Orchis cyrenaica from Libya, the Mediterranean Orchis collina and Orchis papilionacea: Mediterranean and eastern: ‘North to the foothills of the Alps and east to the Caspian Sea.’ And under the synonyms I find also Anacamptis papilionacea (L.) R. M. Bateman, Pridgeon & Chase. Delforge describes 6 varieties with 2 variants, no subspecies at all:‘alibertis’; ‘heroica’; ‘bruhnsiana’; ‘grandiflora’; ‘messenica’; ‘papilionacea’ with variants ‘rubra’ and ‘vexillifera’.
BAUMANN ET AL. (2006) had already Orchis papilionacea L ssp. heroica (E.D. Clarke) H. Baumann 1986 on his name as author but he is still eager to split this poor species up into 15(!) different taxa. Let’s read their register and shiver: O.papilionacea L ssp. papilionacea; O. papilionacea ssp. alibertis G. & H. Kretzschmar; O. papilionacea L ssp. balcanica H. Baumann & R. Lorenz; ssp. palaestina H. Baumann & R. Lorenz; ssp. grandiflora (Boiss.) H. Baumann; ssp. expansa (Ten) Guadagno; ssp. schirwanica (Woronow) Soó; ssp. rubra (Jacq.) Malagarriga. This were just the subspecies, and for the variations: — var. alibertis (G. & H. Kretzschmar) P.Delforge; — var. bruhnsiana Gruner; var. cyrenaica (Durand et al.) P. Delforge; –var. grandiflora Boiss.; –var. messenica Renz; –var. morgetiana H. Baumann & R. Lorenz.
So I don’t have to make a list of SYNONYMS in this blog, more room for photographs…Very noteworthy is that also in their opinion Anacamptis papilionacea is just a synonym for Orchis papilionacea L ssp. papilionacea…So they thought about it and rejected this new family name! Yeah, because otherwise they lose their names as authors behind 5 papilionacea taxa; otherwise they all will have R. M. Bateman, Pridgeon & Chase as authors.
KARATZÁS (Lesvos 2007): Orchis papilionacea ssp. heroica and ssp. heroica var. alba. Greeks just love their own heroic history…

Orchis papilionacea, Karava. © JvL 5-03-2010 #020

PETROU et al. (2011): Anacamptis papilionacea (L.) R. M. Bateman, Pridgeon & Chase. Ah, back to just papilionacea and they agree on the name change from Orchis to Anacamptis. But: ‘The species show great variability and a lot of local, possibly habitat-dependent, forms that have been treated by various authors alternately as subspecies, varieties or forms, often without sufficient evidence, creating great confusion.’ And: ‘Delforge (2005) reduces all these subspecies to varieties (yes, that was a clever move of Delforge, another 4 orchids on his name – JvL), we tend to agree, since we believe that their differences are not important enough, and most of them are probably local, habitat-dependent variants.’
Actually, I tend to agree too, because after going through all my papilionacea photographs between 2007 and 2013 – and I clearly see all the different varieties - I cannot put a determinative name on them, not even on heroica, not even just for one day…

TAYLOR, M.: (on Chios, Inouses & Psara’, 2012): Orchis papilionacea var. heroica L., (E. D. Clarke) P. Delforge 2011. Back to testicles* and heroes again…

BOTTOM-LINE: So Orchis papilionacea should now be Anacamptis papilionacea (L.) R. M. Bateman, Pridgeon & Chase? Because they rearranged Orchis and put 11 Orchis members in the genus Anacamptis in which, until now, only the solitary Anacamptis pyramidalis was living? And Orchis morio is now also Anacamptis morio, and which orchids more? Palustris, elegans, laxiflora, picta, boryi, coriophora, fragrans, collina and sancta…Moreover, by doing so they put their names in one big swap behind 11 Orchis taxa… brilliant! And also Kretzschmar et al. (2007) are swapping around with species and genera: ‘Within orchids in particular, it was found that two groups of species, up to now belonging to the genus Orchis, in fact belong to the genera Anacamptis or Neotinea, whereas only one species of the genus Aceras needs to be integrated into the genus Orchis.’
My God, all those name changes! Just because some species in the genus Orchis don’t want to intermingle with other members in the genus? Only with Serapias? Or are there other very important reasons – which I don’t know yet – for all these genus changes?Come on Orchid heroes Delforge, Baumann and Devillers-Terschuren: don’t let this pass unpunished, do something! Chase them, ignore them or – on my part – make up a subgroup or so, problem solved!
Oh, TYTECA & KLEIN (2008) did that already when they split the genus Orchis into four genera: Herorchis, Androrchis, Orchis s.str. and Odontorchis! PETROU (2011) made a remark on those ‘proposals’: ‘(it is) a view that has not met any acceptance.’ At this moment, my view on this whole genera name swapping matter is the same: it does not (yet?) meet any acceptance in my mind! Because subsequently I have to rename over 10,000 photographs in my computer… So come on; there are much more sensible things to do in life, let us hold on to Orchis papilionacea Link 1799… flowering from February until the middle of May. Piece of cake!

Pink Orchis papilionacea, Tombes, Palios. © JvL 12-03-2010 #152

Jan van Lent,Lesvos, 8-03-2013

* The name Orchis is derived from the Greek word ‘ópxis’, meaning testicles, in reference to the two ovoid tubers of the plants.

David Bowie with Queen, after the death of Freddy Mercury 1992: ‘Heroes’.

or in 1977:

Tribute to David Bowie (1947-2016): Lady Gaga 2016: