John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Cephalanthera rubra
 

C. rubra  was first described by Richard from Iena  (Germany) in  1767 and it name alludes to the very
distinctive red (more accurately pink) colouration of the flowers. 

This is an orchid renowned for its  propensity to vanish for years on end in sites where it had previously been present in large numbers, only to reappear as if nothing had occurred. The reasons for these periodic disappearances are not known with certainty but studies indicate that it is highly sensitive to even small changes in habitat conditions with both light levels and competition appearing to be of critical importance. During these periods of underground existence the plant survives in a vegetative state depending entirely on mycorrhizal based food production.

C. rubra  has a huge distribution from the Atlantic to the Caspian sea and is perhaps at its most frequent in  temperate and sub Mediterranean regions, becoming progressively local and uncommon in the north of its range and in Britain it is a very rare orchid indeed. Here it is known from three well known locations plus a limited number of less publicised sites all in the southern half of the country.

It is very much a plant of shady positions and this most usually takes the form of deciduous or mixed woodland, normally but not exclusively on calcareous substrates. It is a very slender plant but easily recognized as a Cephalanthera and the pink colouration differentiates it from all the other predominantly white flowered members of the genus. C. kurdica and C. cucullata, although pink flowered, do not have any significant overlap of range. The pictures are all from Var, southern France and date from the beginning of June.