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

This handsome species was first described from Crete by Baumann and Kunkele in 1972, its name, orientalis refering to its easterly distribution in the Mediterranean.

Its full range is not completely understood due to confusion with its 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 . Although its distribution is patchy, it can be  abundant in its favoured locations, these being generally in full sun on damp (even wet) alkaline soils. S. orientalis 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 whose range overlaps. The most important feature that differentiates these two species 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 pale or yellow in colouration. This can produces some striking variations, as can be seen with photos 3 and 7. Hypochromism is also common and in common with most Serapias, hybridization is frequent. Intermediate populations with S. vomeracea  and S. carica are particularly prevalent and these colonies present the usual problems with identification. S. orientalis  maintains a varietal outpost in Sicily with siciliensis and pictures 1, 2 and 6 depict the form cordigeroides  which is so named because of the contrasting cordigera like darkness of its lip.

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