John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Anacamptis laxiflora
 

O. laxiflora was first described from a site near Paris by Lamarck as long ago as 1778. Its name refers to the loose appearance of the inflorescence, although this characteristic is somewhat unreliable, being distinctly variable between populations.

Regretably this once abundant orchid is becoming scarcer by the year as its favoured habitat is drained or adapted in poorer areas for subsistence agriculture. The particular valley in Rhodes from which many of these photographs originate was once a stronghold of the species with many thousands of plants covering acres of marshy grassland.  In 2009 when these pictures were recorded, there were barely 50 specimens left.

The distribution of A. laxiflora is large and covers much of the Mediterranean and Atlantic, including a small northerly UK population in the Channel Islands (off the coast of north western France). To the east it's range takes it as far as Anatolia. Although as has already been mentioned, the size and density of the inflorescence can be variable, it is otherwise extremely consistent in its appearance and there are few other orchids with which it may be confused. A possible exception to this is A. palustris which has a similar distribution but is less dependent on damp soil conditions. Distinguishing the two is however reasonably straightforward in that the flower of A. laxiflora is much darker (less pink) and the lip more strongly reflexed.

The pictures come from Rhodes and Liguria (Italy) dating from the first week of April and the first week of May respectively. The very rare, lilac coloured examples are only known from a small colony in the region of Epirus in northern Greece.