John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Gymnadenia conopsea


This species was first described by Brown from Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany in 1753 and its name means
"with the appearance of a fly". This species has for many years been familiar to botanists as the Fragrant Orchid, a name which refers to the scent of the flower which has variously been described as reminiscent of cloves, carnations and many others. It appears that different populations of this species can produce scents of differing fragrances.

G. conopsea is a widespread and sometimes abundant orchid with a huge distribution that covers boreal and
temperate Eurasia right through to China. In the south of its range ( France and Spain) it becomes a montane species and is quite at home at 2500 metres in the European Alps growing alongside more recognized Alpine species such as its close relative G. rhellicani.

In Britain it is not easily confused with other species though confusion can arise due to its propensity for hybridization, both within its genus and occasionally outside. Crosses with D. praetermissa, D. purpurella and D. fucshii have all been recorded but intergenetic instances are not commonplace. There are two recognized varieties, the first being var densiflora which can be found throughout the range of G. conopsea var conopsea and favours damp alkaline meadows and fens, primarily (though not exclusively) in montane areas.  The second is var borealis which favours similar conditions but on acid or neutral soils. G. conopsea itself will grow in wet conditions but is most familiar as a dry grassland plant on alkaline substrates. 

The pictures are from Hampshire (England) and the mountains of the Ecrins National Park in France.