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


A. pyramidalis  was first described  by L.C.M Richard from Oxford (Britain) in 1753 and its name alludes to the pyramidal shape of the inflorescence.

This species is pollinated by a variety of moths and butterflies and the mechanism by which the pollinia attach to the proboscis of insects was first described by no less an authority than Charles Darwin in his paper - The Fertilisation of Orchids. This is a widespread and extremely common orchid that is present throughout most of Europe apart from Scandinavia. Its northerly distribution reaches Britain, Germany and Poland and extends as far as North Africa in the south. It is exclusively a plant of calcareous soils but otherwise tolerates a broad range of habitat from dry to damp conditions, in full sun to relatively deep shade.

Although A. pyramidalis is variable in terms of colouration and size, it's a remarkably stable species in most other respects and is not easily confused with other orchids. Hybidization is not unknown but is not at all common.  Variants have been described but these seem primarily to be colour morphs and are of little or no evolutionary significance. Variety tanayensis is however a distinctive and beautiful variety from the Alps with a dense head of deep red flowers. A further variety, nivea from Greece is a pure white form that grows in stable populations isolated from variety pyramidalis. The frequency of pale and white forms of this species increases in the south east of its range and in countries like Greece they can be the dominant colour strain.

The pictures come from a range of European countries (including Britain) and date from March (Cyprus) to July (Wales).  Picture 5 depicts an unusual specimen from the Lecce Province of southern Italy.