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’.