24. Orchis laxiflora: ‘Everybody Knows’.

Habitats: Agios Alexandros (Lafionas), Klapados & Pigidakia (Dipi).

Field with Orchis laxiflora, Agios Alexandros, Lafionas © Jan van Lent, 14-05-13 #090

Orchis laxiflora LAMARCK 1778 or Anacamptis laxiflora BPC* 1997.
DELFORGE 1995: Orchis palustris group; Orchis laxiflora subgroup.

Orchis laxiflora, Agios Alexandros, Lafionas © Jan van Lent, 14-05-13 #031

HABITAT: There are three habitats on Lesvos where I always get wet feet during ‘hunting’ the Loose or Lax-flowered Orchid; the first one is the marsh above Lafionas next to the basilica of the first bishop of Lesvos: Agios Alexandros. The second one is on the banks of the small stream (called the Kyprianou) leading from the ‘Klapados’ waterfall to Dafia, and the third one are the marshes on the Gulf of Gera near Pigadakia or Dipi. As a matter of fact there is a fourth one: in the reeds on the Larisos corner at the junction of the road to Plomari with that from Kalloni to Mytilini, but you have to be early there. I know there could be more habitats on Lesvos: KARATZÁ (Lesvos 2008) describes 5 more spots (Sígri, Gavathas, Pedí, the Katsinia bay down from Avlóna but I think I’ve never been in all those places at the right time… Molivos (well, I’m there at the right time but maybe this habitat is gone, like so many others in Greece in the last few years, and no, not only because of sheep & goats but tourists this time, although we don’t have so many of this last specimen on Lesvos).

Orchis laxiflora, Pigadakia, Dipi © Jan van Lent, 14-04-13 #017

REMARKS: I’m not going into the Orchis – Anacamptis genus renaming this time because I’m still trying to read & understand (this will take some months) R. M. BATEMAN’s recent ‘Circumscribing genera in the European orchid flora: a subjective critique of recent contributions (2012)’ and also H. F. PAULUS (2012): ‘Neues zur Klassifikation europäischer Orchideen oder: wie beliebig ist Systematik?’
In translation: How arbitrary is systematic?
So why not assign Orchis laxiflora to an Anacamptis group? That will hurt less…
And what is there to research on Orchis (Anacamptis) laxiflora?

Orchis laxiflora var. rosea, Agios Alexandros, Lafionas, © Jan van Lent, 14-05-13 #103

RESEARCH: Well, not much: SUNDERMANN (1980) described Orchis laxiflora with 3 subspecies: ssp. laxiflora, ssp. palustris and ssp. robusta (only North-Africa, Mallorca). But SUNDERMANN (and he is the only one) describes 2 variations: var. albiflora (with white flowers) and var. rosea (with soft pink flowers).
KREUTZ (Turkey 1998) also mentioned some (one?) white Orchis laxiflora from one habitat between Marmaris and Datça (Muğla) in Turkey, found by LINKER in 1995 but nothing about pink coloured specimens. Also in his Rhodos and Karpathos book, KREUTZ (2002) mentioned white Orchis laxiflora at a few locations on both islands.
In the Orchids of Cyprus (KREUTZ, 2004): ’Orchis laxiflora is among the rarest and most threatened orchids of Cyprus and is currently only known from just a few sites.’
But nothing about white or colour variations, just deep violet to reddish violet.

Orchis laxiflora, Pigadakia, Dipi © Jan van Lent, 14-04-13 #050

KRETZSCHMAR (2004) didn’t describe the white and pink variations of Orchis laxiflora as variations but he mentioned them and actually had a photograph of a pink coloured Lax-flowered Orchid.
Even DELFORGE (2005) didn’t has those two variations (as a variation) in his book but under the header Varations he has: ‘Little variation. Distinct from O. palustris particulary in its flower colour and strongly convex lip, with the median lobe short or absent.’

If we stay with the European Orchid Literature & Field Guides we fly now to Germany to BAUMANN ET AL (2006) for their opinion about the Orchis laxiflora ‘complex’ and to see how many species are allowed to carry their name. Still Orchis laxiflora I must say because they described Anacamptis laxiflora BPC* 1997 as a synonym. In the index I found 3 subspecies and one variation under Orchis laxiflora (ssp. dielsiana Soó; ssp. elegans (Heuffel) Soó see: O.palustris ssp. elegans; ssp. palustris (Jacq.) Bonnier & Layens see: O.palustris ssp. palustris and variation dinsmorei Schlechter, but finally they went for Orchis dinsmorei (Schltr.) H. Baumann & Dafni (Yes, I knew it! Was it a hard decision guys?) but they didn’t mention any colour variations under O. laxiflora.

PETROU ET AL (2011): Anacamptis laxiflora BPC 1997*.  ‘It is easily recognizable by its very dark flowers and the shape of the lip.’ Yeah, well, those very dark flowers I don’t see often on Lesvos, maybe because they are already mixed with Orchis palustris and elegans who have a much lighter colour.
And is it not interesting to see that TAYLOR (2012) only has very light coloured or even pink Orchis laxiflora in his Checklist of Orchids of Chios, Inouses & Psara, no dark laxiflora on Chios, our neighboring island? More interesting is the fact that DELFORGE & SALIARIS (Chios, Inouses & Psara 2007) don’t even mention Orchis laxiflora at all…

But the most interesting thing is that DEVILLERS ET AL (Orchids of Lesvos 2010) didn’t notice Orchis laxiflora on Lesvos. And that is a very big relief because otherwise we should now learn everything about ‘Vermeulenia laxiflora’, ‘Herorchis laxiflora’, ‘Anteriorchis laxiflora’ or maybe even ‘Odontorchis laxiflora’…

Orchis laxiflora, Kiprianou, Klapados © Jan van Lent, 11-05-09 #075

BOTTOM-LINE: So also on Lesvos you don’t recognize Orchis laxiflora just by their very dark violet flowers. Go for the lax inflorescence, the very small shape of the lip (in front view) and the unspotted white centre of the lip – although the lip has some very light coloured, hardly recognizable spots. On Lesvos they have anyway. And everybody knows that you get easily confused between Orchis laxiflora, palustris and elegans, so don’t you worry: palustris and elegans have much broader lips with lines and spots, and they don’t look like Jesus Christ hanging on the cross.

Jan van Lent, Lesvos, 26-5-2013.

*BPC 1997 stands for ‘genes approved and authorized’ by:

Leonard Cohen: ‘Everybody Knows’.


23. Cephalanthera epipactoides & Cephalanthera longifolia: ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’.

Habitat: Eftalou & Agiasos.

Cephalanthera epipactoides, Eftalou, © Jan van Lent 23-4-13 #063.

Cephalanthera epipactoides Fisher & Meyer 1854.
Cephalanthera longifolia (L.) Fritsch 1753.
The genus Cephalanthera L.C. Richard 1818,
on Lesvos: C.epipactoides, C.longifolia, maybe C.damasionum and C.rubra.

Cephalanthera epipactoides, Eftalou, © Jan van Lent 23-4-13 #030.

REMARKS: The last blog I started with the sentence that ‘it was not so long ago that Ophrys iricolor was hunted down for the first time on Lesvos; it was in 1978 and P.PEISL and H.R. REINHARD were the hunters’. Now I have to start with: It is already very long ago that Cephalanthera longifolia was spotted for the first time on Lesvos. It was in 1897 by the French explorer P.C. CANDARGY under the name C.ensifolia. Cephalanthera epipactoides had to wait almost 70 years (until 1969) before E. STAMADIADOU discovered the plant on Lesvos. And then, in 1995, G. BLAICH described a C.longifolia variation under the name Cephalanthera longifolia var. chlorotica.

Cephalanthera epipactoides, Eftalou, © Jan van Lent 23-4-13 #043.

HUNTING: You don’t have to hunt the Long- or Sword-leaved cephalanthera on Lesvos; if for instance you walk the path from Agiasos up to Olymbos in May you almost stumble over them. And also in the Chestnut forest you can’t miss those white flowers with the long leaves in front of all the green. C.epipactoides is another story. I have been hunting almost 5 years for this taxon (like I still do for C.damasionum and C.rubra: still didn’t find them) behind the airfield of Mytilini but it never appeared. And if I look in the ‘Big Biel’* I only see a hamlet and a small fishing harbour with the name Kratigos appearing as the habitat of C.epipactoides. The last time anyone saw it ‘live’ was B. Biel on 16.05.1996: ‘70m W border Kratigos (=?Agrilia Kratigou), steep mountain slope in light Pine forest and Olive tree border: Anacamptis pyramidalis, Cephalanthera epipactoides, Cephalanthera epipactoides var. chlorotica, Ophrys mammosa.’
Until last week; in Eftalou.
And not in a (light) Pine forest but on a cliff in the middle of the phrygana up from the beach with almost the same view of Turkey as I have when I walk to my beach, so at a distant of 2km from my house. The plants were discovered by Leon Boogaart and Anke Sinnema, who came for the first time to Greece, for the first time to Lesvos, on their first day and on their first walk. And there it was: Cephalanthera epipactoides. Yep. And they thought that it was quite normal to find a Helleborine-like cephalanthera in Eftalou, that is, until they met me the next day for a 3 day orchid hunt…

Cephalanthera epipactoides, Eftalou, © Jan van Lent 23-4-13 #049

RESEARCH: In SUNDERMANN (Europäische und mediterrane Orchideen, 1980) I didn’t find an orchid with the name Cephalanthera epipactoides, but I found Cephalanthera cucullata ssp. epipactoides, actually the same plant if you look at the photographs and read SUNDERMANN’s descriptions: ’25-100cm, lower leaves bag shaped, the higher ones often flat and sticking out; the stem is often already from the lower fifth filled with up to 40 flowers; flowers white; spur 3-5mm long.
Habitats: ‘Eastern Aegean islands, Turkey (from the Galipoli peninsula eastwards approx. to the Mersin province in the South, in the North to Artvin.)’ He has 3 more subspecies of C. cucullata: ssp. cucullata (only in the Ida mountain on Crete); ssp. kurdica (in the east of Turkey, the north of Syria and Persia) and ssp. floribunda (east Pontus, Kaukasus). And of course he described C.longifolia (no subspecies here), C.rubra and C.damasionum with ssp. caucasica and kotschyana.

Cephalanthera longifolia, Agiasos, Chestnut forest © Jan van Lent 29-4-13 #028

Twenty-five years later nothing changed much, only ssp. floribunda left the scene.
DELFORGE (2005) now described  the remaining 8 Cephalanthera as species, not as subspecies anymore, for Europe, North Africa and the Middle East: C.kotschyana (eastern Anatolia, Azerbaijan), C.caucasica (South-eastern Caucasus and North Iran); C.damasionum (Europe and Asia in the temperate and sub-Mediterranean zones); C.longifolia (Europe and Asia in the temperate and sub-Mediterranean zones, from the Atlantic to the Himalayas, northwest to Trondheim in Norway); C.rubra (Europe and Asia in the temperate and sub-Mediterranean zones, from the Atlantic to the Caspian Sea) C.epipactoides (Eastern (sub-) Mediterrean, from northern Greece (Thrace) east to Antalya and Ordu (Anatolia); C. kurdica (the Near East) and C.cucullata (endemic to Crete).
There are 5 Cephalanthera’s flowering in Greece: C.epipactoides, C.longifolia, C.damasionum, C.rubra and C.cucullata. (PETROU, 2011). From these 5 taxa, 4 should been flowering on Lesvos (KARATZÁ, 2008); only C. cucullata is not around because Lesvos is not Crete.
Those 4 Cephalanthera on Lesvos are clearly distinguished from each other;
C.epipactoides has small leaves, broad bracts and a spur on the back of the flower, C.longifolia has long, lanceolate leaves; the upper bracts are very small and it has a yellow blotch on the edge of the lip, no spur.
C.damasionum: bracts longer than the upwards facing flowers, larger flowers, epichile orange inside with yellow ridges; no spur.
C.rubra is pink/red.

So far, so good. But which of those is this Cephalanthera on the right picture then?

Chestnut forest 8-5-2011: #087 Cephalanthera longifolia; #078 Cephalanthera x schulzei or schaberi?

On the 8th of May 2011 I was photographing a group of Cephalanthera in the Chestnut Forest above Agiasos when I saw one Cephalanthera standing behind a tree stump with a lot of brown spots on the, compared with longifolia, bigger flowers. This one also had much shorter leaves and the leaves didn’t have the veins which are so characteristic for C. longifolia and the texture of those leaves was very soft and smooth, not rough like the ones from longifolia. They looked like the ones from Cephalanthera damasionum. But the plant had the typical longifolia inflorescence, so without the long bracts between the flowers. In his book ‘Die Orchideen der Türkei’, KREUTZ (1998) describes a few Cephalanthera longifolia-hybrids: Cephalanthera damasonium x Cephalanthera longifolia = Cephalanthera x schulzei E.G.CAMUS, BERGON & A.CAMUS 1908 and Cephalanthera epipactoides x Cephalanthera longifolia = Cephalanthera x schaberi H.BAUMANN 1980.
KREUTZ: Cephalanthera x schaberi: ’Described from the province Çanakkale on the Gabibolu peninsula (9-5-1980). A specimen was also found (28-4-1988) on a cemetery in the neighbourhood of Yapildak (Çanakkale).’ Well, Çanakkale is opposite Lesvos, so which is this Cephalanthera with the brown spots (#078, #079)?
But I have to go for Cephalanthera x schulzei because those lower leaves look more the same and even with my loupe I can’t see the most finicky spur on the flower…

BOTTOM-LINE: And I should have known when I looked closely at the photographs that some plants had already completely vanished and that a lot of leaves had been nibbled. But I thought that the sheep maybe didn’t like Cephalanthera epipactoides and that they wouldn’t come back. But they did in the next days and finished all Cephalanthera completely, down to the ground. Two days later it was Greek Easter. I ate as much sheep as I could that day but I don’t think it helped to preserve those epipactoides next year.

Cephalanthera epipactoides, Eftalou, 23-4-13 #061 & 3-5-13 #001 © Jan van Lent.

But then I got a message from friends that they found yesterday a bunch of not yet eaten (because they were hidden under a garbage dump) C. epipactoides opposite of the Sanatorio above Agiasos! So here they are, standing in the rain in the immaculate forest …

Cephalanthera epipactoides, Sanatorio, Agiasos, © Jan van Lent 10-5-13 #137

Jan van Lent, Lesvos, 11-5-2013

‘With a little help from my friends’: Joe Cocker, 1968, this version is from 2002.
n Memory of Joe Cocker, 1944-2014.

*Big Biel: see ARTICLES.
*Vicariant: allopatric* taxa originating from the same ancestral species.
*Allopatric: species occupying geographic ranges that do not overlap.
*Sympatric: species occurring in the same area or whose ranges overlap.

Cephalanthera epipactoides, Sanatorio, Agiasos, © Jan van Lent 10-5-13 #122