|John and Gerry's Orchids of Britain and Europe|
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S. occidentalis was first described by Venhuis, Venhuis and Ellis-Adam from Badajoz, Spain in 2006 and its name refers to its westerly distribution. There is however considerable discussion as to whether this is in fact Serapias lorenziana as previously described from north Africa by Baumann and Kunkele in 1989.
This species has a similar distribution pattern as S. perez-chiscanoi and notwithstanding previous comments regarding S. lorenziana, is thought to be endemic to the Extremadura of Spain and some adjacent districts of Portugal. The known colonies so far seem to be centred on the Guardiana river basin where it is highly localised and where each population supports only a very few plants. As with S. perez-chiscanoi this situation seems unlikely to improve as more and more of its restricted wetland habitat is turned over to intensive agriculture.
S. occidentalis requires a very similar, mildly acidic, damp habitat to that of S. perez-chiscanoi and both
are to be found growing on the wet grasslands (dehesas) for which Extremadura is noted. Interestingly however they are rarely found growing in close proximity to one another. The species is of hybridogenous origin involving S. cordigera and S. vomeracea but is not to be confused with the occasional fresh hybrid between the two (S x kelleri) . In the latter the bracts exceed the length of the hood and the epichile is less heart shaped , thus following the characteristics of S. vomeracea. In S. occidentalis, as with S. cordigera, the bract is shorter than the hood and the epichile much wider (as can be seen from the pictures).
This species is easily separated from S. cordigera by the lighter colouration and the way in which the flowers are arranged alternately up the stem. The average number of flowers per stem is only 2 or 3.