John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe

Limodorum abortivum

L. abortivum
was first described by Swartz from Fontainebleu (France) in 1753 and its name refers to the the small size of the leaves and the manner in which they sheath the stem. Abortivum literally means aborted leaves.

This is a curious orchid that still requires study in order to determine its precise biology. Although widely regarded as a wholly saprophytic plant, there are indications that it may (at least in part) be parasitic. Two factors in particular serve to confuse the issue and these are firstly the fact that the stem has been shown to contain measurable levels of chlorophyll and secondly that the plant depends throughout its existence on mycorrhizal fungus. L. abortivum  needs little description as it is highly distinctive and impossible to confuse with any other type of orchid.

This is a widespread species with a distribution from Belgium in the north, North Africa in the south and at least as far as Russia in the east. It does not occur in Britain and reaches the height of it's abundance in the southern Mediterranean where it is predominantly found on calcareous soils and usually associated with pine forest. This close proximity to living pine trees is another link with possible parasitism but as already mentioned, the physiology is not yet fully understood.

The species does have a few described variants but rather as with Anacamptis pyramidalis  these are largely colour forms and of no particular evolutionary significance. As can be seen from the illustrations there can be a range of colour forms and all these pictures are from the same colony on the island of Rhodes.  They date from the first week of April.