Gymnadenia conopsea   Chalk Fragrant-orchid C DD N

Gymnadenia conopsea ssp conopsea Gymnadenia conopsea ssp conopsea

The orchid, without differentiating into the three very similar species, is an easy one to identify as it has distinctive characteristics such as a long fairly thin curved spur and an obvious fragrance.

According to the various texts, the Gymnadenia Fragrant Orchid species are differentiated by looking at details such as the sepals and the shape of the labellum. In Gymnadenia conopsea, the commonest of the three British Isles Gymnadenia species, the labellum clearly has lobes which are even more conspicuous and differentiated in Gymnadenia densiflora but hardly visible in Gymnadenia borealis. Having written that this separation these separate species is to me anyway one of the least convincing I have come across. The differentiating features appear to merge into one another without an obvious separation either of morphology or ecology. In the field I find even experts are confused when it is known that the distribution of two of the species overlap.

Gymnadenia conopsea has mostly been recorded from the south of England around Hampshire but there is a significant population recorded from the area where this one was seen in the north east of England. It has been recorded from Scotland too as far as the north coast. There are also a few sites in south Wales and a few in Ireland but most records don't differentiate between species.

Gymnadenia conopsea is the new name in New Flora of the British Isles Edition 3 (2010) by Clive Stace for Gymnadenia conopsea ssp conopsea. Because there are now three species instead of three sub species each has had to be given a new English name so Gymnadenia conopsea is now called Chalk Fragrant-orchid.

Floor of Bishop Middleham Quarry, Durham 3rd July 2005

Added on 3rd July 2005, updated 2nd February 2009, updated 2nd April 2010, updated 28th May 2012

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