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Gymnadenia lithopolitanica
 

This species was first described as Nigratella lithopolitanica by Ravnik from Slovenia in 1978 and its name refers to the town of Kamnik, near the site of its discovery. It has subsequently been reclassified as G. lithopolitanica within the G. nigra group of the genus Gymnadenia.

This is a rare orchid known from only one region in Slovenia (Kamnik-Savija) and two in southern Austria (Karawanken and Koralpe). In all three areas it forms small, low density colonies at altitudes between 1500 and 2000 metres where it grows in short grassland and being intolerant of suffocating vegetation, is totally dependent on timely seasonal grazing. As with several other of the Vanilla Orchid species, its future is threatened by alpine recreational development.

G. lithopolitanica is a sturdy orchid which can reach a height in excess of 20cms and being one of the five diploid Vanilla Orchids that reproduce sexually, is consequently subject to greater variation than its apomictic cousins. Typically the dark pink buds develop into whitish to light pink flowers and form a hemispherical inflorescence that is generally somewhat taller than it is wide. The mature flower head exhibits a cold, bluish tone, quite unlike the warm reddish pink hue of fellow Dolomite dweller G. buschmanniae.

This is an early flowering species that commences in mid June and in typical years, continues well into July. In 2018 however, when these photographs were taken on the 6th of July, the majority of flowers had completed anthesis and shriveling was well advanced. The pictures come from Hochobir in the Karawanken mountains south of Klagenfurt in Austria.