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Gennaria diphylla


G. diphylla was first described from Setubal, Portugal by Parlatore in 1800 and its name literally means two leaved. It is the sole representative of the Gennaria genus, with a restricted range in the western Mediterranean, Madeira and the Canary Islands.

This is a rather unimposing, drab orchid that is uncommon throughout and particularly so in the east of its range, where it still occurs on a very localized basis, largely in coastal habitats on Corsica and Sardinia.  It is a plant that seeks out the shade of evergreen woods and shrubby thickets but is also at home in shaded rocky areas such as the fissures of stabilized lava fields (Tenerife) and as can be seen from some of the pictures below, the cracks in dry stone walls (Sardinia). G. diphylla is most commonly found on acidic substrates but will tolerate neutral conditions and in one well known site in southern Spain, grows on the spoil heaps of a working lime quarry.

G. diphylla is unlikely to be confused with any other orchid and not least because it's an extremely early flowerer which in the Canary Islands can be found in bloom from January. Elsewhere it starts in February and early March but is usually past its best by the beginning of April, though the yellowing leaves persist beneath the fruiting stem well into May.

The flowers are small and green, with a perianth that points forward and converges to form a hood splays out at the end like a tiny trumpet. G. diphylla is not a particularly changeable species, though height can vary considerably between 10 and 50cms.

The photos are from Sardinia and date from the first week of April by which time they were fading fast.