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

Gymnadenia austriaca v gallica
 

This species has been reclassified several times and possesses several synonyms. The above name does however seem to be the one that has received the widest acceptance, having been based on a paper to the Naturalistes Belges in 1998. Its varietal name is an evident reference to its range which encompasses the Alps, Massif Central and Pyrenees of France but which also extends to some of the higher mountain districts of northern Spain, a factor of distribution that prompts some botanists to refer to this taxon as either a variety or subspecies entitled iberica.

G. austriaca v gallica is not an uncommon orchid being found on many French and Spanish mountains in the 1500 to 2000 metres range, where it thrives in often sizable colonies on high alpine grassland on calcareous soils. Apart from minor variations in the number of, and size of individual flowers, it is very similar to G. austriaca itself, though confusion is unlikely due to the distribution differences. It is often to be found in the company of G. rhellicani, another widespread species with which it shares similarities and all to frequently where differentiation can be problematic. Typically however G. austriaca v gallica has fewer, larger flowers, with a flatter hemispherical inflorescence which is usually of a lighter red hue when if full bloom. Work is ongoing in Italy, in which DNA testing suggests, plants formerly regarded as G. austriaca, in fact conform more closely to G. rhellicani. It is far too early to draw firm conclusions from this limited regional work but the taxonomy and range of G. austriaca (including gallica) may come under future review.
 
It first appears at the beginning of June with some populations, particularly those at higher elevations, still in bloom by mid July. The illustrations are from Mont Cenis and the Col de la Croix, dating from the first two weeks of July.