John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Serapias orientalis


S. orientalis was first described from Crete by Baumann and Kunkele in 1972 and is a member of the S. vomeracea group of Serapias. Its name is a reference to its easterly distribution in the Mediterranean.


Its full range is not completely understood due to confusion with close relative S. carica, to which it bears a strong resemblance. It is however known with certainty from Crete, southern Greece and much of the Aegean . S. orientalis is a localized species but can be abundant in its favoured locations, this generally being a position in full sun on damp (even wet) alkaline soils. It is a distinctive orchid, especially in its orange/yellow form but where its colouration is the commoner red, it may easily be confused with S. carica, a species with a significant overlap of range. The most important feature differentiating these two, is the length of the bract, which in S. carica is shorter than the hood and in S. orientalis, is at least equal in length, often longer.
 
As with S. bergonii it is commonly encountered in forms that are anthocyanin deficient and consequently either pale or yellow in colouration. This can produces some striking variations, as can be seen depicted in photo 4. Hypochromism is also common and as with most Serapias species, hybridization is frequent, intermediate populations with S. vomeracea  and S. carica being particularly prevalent. S. orientalis maintains a varietal outpost in Sicily with siciliensis and in Crete, together with some other parts of southern Greece, cordigeroides , a particularly handsome variety which is so named because of the contrasting S. cordigera like darkness of its lip.

The illustrations are from Crete, Lesbos and the Peloponnese, dating from early April.









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