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Spanish orchids

John Muddeman
13/04/2009 11:18:37

A few comments and some pictures of Spanish orchids

Posted in: Flora | Extremadura | Spanish Mainland, Southern Spain, Western Spain

Mirror Ophrys a - Ophrys s. speculum © John MuddemanMirror Ophrys Ophrys s. speculum© John Muddeman The interest in Spanish orchids has grown enormously over the last few years. This is partly a result of a general increase in interest following publication in 2005 of volume XXI of Flora iberica, covering three families: Smilacaceae, Dioscoreaceae and very largely, Orchidaceae (25 genera and numerous species), but also the presence of up-to-date, European-wide field guides books by, e.g. Delforge, on the family.

Naked Man Orchids a - Orchis italica © John MuddemanNaked Man Orchids Orchis italica© John Muddeman

Importantly, these have presumably also been a spur to regionally based studies, and in particular in Extremadura, where Proyecto Orquidea has now been running for a number of years and has made a large number of important discoveries for the region, especially given the use of records by a large number of interested amateurs. The use of websites to maintain up-to-date information, available openly on-line is also helping greatly to stimulate interest, e.g. Orquideas Ibericas

Woodcock Ophrys a - Ophrys scolopax © John MuddemanWoodcock Ophrys Ophrys scolopax© John MuddemanHowever, the taxonomic treatment given by these different works is about as far apart as could be possible! Flora iberica, the standard work on the Iberian flora (excluding the Macronesian islands) takes a very 'conservative' stance, noting 'just' 12 species of Ophrys for the entire Peninsula and the Balearics, while in the list in the Proyecto Orquidea blogspot 11 species are listed for Extremadura alone!

Yellow Bee Ophrys a - Ophrys lutea © John MuddemanYellow Bee Ophrys Ophrys lutea© John MuddemanProyecto Orquídea's blogspot also brought to attention the recent publication of another detailed study in the region - Revisión de la familia Orchidaceae en Extremadura - a monograph in the journal Folia Botanica Extremadurensis (vol. 3, 2009. Vázquez, F.M.), which elevates the number of forms known for Extremadura to over 150, and so, surprisingly, claiming to be greater than for any other region in Spain! This publication also includes descriptions of about 15 new taxa (species, subspecies and forms), about half of which are currently endemic to Extremadura, and includes a whole series of changes in the systematics, leading to very confused picture at present. See the section titled: Novedades en taxonomía de orquídeas: Extremadura for a brief review of Violet Limodore a - Limodorum abortivum © John MuddemanViolet Limodore
Limodorum abortivum
© John Muddeman
the work and some of the changes incorporated. E.g. Barlia is now a Himantoglossum, many Orchis are now Anacamptis, etc. The very confusing tongue orchid group Serapias has undergone heavy revision, and now also includes a new species (Serapias maria) as well as different forms. As if it weren't already confusing enough! Unfortunately, this publication is already unobtainable and since it is not yet available in .pdf format, I cannot make any direct comparisons.

Early Spider Ophrys a - Ophrys sphegodes incubacea © John MuddemanEarly Spider Ophrys
Ophrys sphegodes
© John Muddeman
Whatever the case, and independently of the taxonomy used, there are a tremendous number of species in Iberia and having been able to appreciate a few of these during a recent trip, it is great to be able to illustrate a few of these here. Sadly, given a very dry spring until now, the orchids in lowland Cáceres province generally appeared en masse this year and are already largely over - it was peculiar to see Giant Orchid Barlia robertianum and Conical Orchids Orchis conica -both relatively early species- in full flower at the same time as various Ophrys and huge numbers of Naked Man Orchids Orchis italica.

The great majority of species in Extremadura are shown on the Extremadura blogspot site in case anyone is interested.

Fortunately, despite terribly dry conditions in most of C and SW Spain until just a few days ago, spring has now arrived, and the old saying, "Abril, aguas mil" ("April, a thousand waters") saying looks like being very true for the next week or more. This should prolong the flowering of some later species and give better conditions for those further north which were looking at near-drought conditions.

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