John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
Home Back to Anacamptis species Links

Anacamptis papilionacea v vexillifera


The A. papilionacea group consists of just two species, A. papilionacea itself, commonly known as the Pink Butterfly Orchid and the Fan Lipped Orchid, A. collina. The former is a polymorphic species with a wide distribution and these factors unsurprisingly give rise to a significant range of natural and regional variations. First described by Linnaeus as long ago as 1759, the taxon has been intensely studied ever since, leading to the recognition of many forms and the creation of a list of synonyms far too extensive to detail in these pages (no less than 67 in 2013). A genetic study in 1993, comparing sub-species grandiflora, papilionacea and aegaea (then heroica) from around the Mediterranean, determined that the minimal genetic difference's discovered, were consistent with nothing more than separate geographic populations within a single cohesive gene pool and that being simple morphs, sub-species status could not be justified. These results were not universally accepted and new taxa continue to emerge.

A. papilionacea v vexillifera was first described from Sardinia by Terraciano in 1910 and its range is largely
confined to Sardinia and Corsica, although there are reports from mainland Italy and also Sicily. This form is very similar to A. papilionacea ssp grandiflora  and their ranges do marginally overlap. Separation where they do associate can be difficult as both variants exhibit similar lip marking and forward pointing, darker coloured perianth with a broad shouldered, enlarged lip. Its really only the larger size of grandiflora that is the obvious differentiator.

As can be seen from the illustrations, colouration and markings in vexillifera can be extremely varied, ranging from the typical striated papilionacea pink, through lilac to completely unmarked white. It has a lengthy flowering period which can commence as early as January, right through to May at higher altitudes. The pictures here are from Sardinia where it appears to be the dominant variant.