Anacamptis laxiflora - Loose-flowered Orchid

Scientific Name: Anacamptis laxiflora (syn Orchis laxiflora). 'Anacamptis' is from the Greek, meaning 'bent backwards', an allusion to the position of the pollenia (the sticky mass of pollen). 'Laxiflora' is from the Latin for 'loose' (in the sense of 'drooping' or 'lax') and 'flowers', a reference to the way the flowers hang off the stem.

English Name: Loose-flowered Orchid.

French Name: Orchis à fleurs lâches (= 'loose flowered orchid'). Also Pentecôte - not the only orchid that goes by this name, and presumably a reference to its flowering time in May-June (Pentecost is 50 days after Easter).

5 Key Characters:
  • Flower colour rich purple red
  • Leaves never spotted
  • Middle lobe of labellum (bottom petal or lip) is much shorter than sides
  • Side lobes of labellum strongly reflexed (pulled back), their undersides almost touching
  • Central part of labellum white and contrasting very strongly with the dark purple red
Lookalikes: Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mâle) Orchis mascula. Where A. laxiflora and A. morio (Green-winged Orchid) occur together they regularly and easily hybridise.

Habitat: Wet grassland, meadows, full sun. Will grow on limestone, but has a preference for slightly acid sandy soils, probably partly because the pasture in these places tends to be unimproved and only lightly grazed. Often in the same locale as Sharp-flowered Rush (Jonc acutiflore in French) Juncus acutiflorus. Can be seen in numbers on Rosnay Common in the Brenne.

Flowering Period: April-May-June.

Status: Protected. Very threatened due to modern agricultural practices. Locally common eg quite common in much of the Brenne. Very rare in the immediate vicinity (within 5km) of Preuilly-sur-Claise, but can be seen if you are lucky. Also on a few sites in the Sologne.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

(For the story of why for a long time we only had this poor, sad-looking photograph of this species, please see our Days on the Claise blog.)
Loose-flowered Orchids growing in typical prairie habitat on Rosnay Common in the Brenne.

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