Neotinea ustulata subsp ustulata - Burnt Orchid

Scientific Name: Neotinea ustulata subsp ustulata. From the Greek 'neos' = new, and Tineo, a 19th century Sicilian botanist. Neotinea is very closely related to Orchis (example). The second part of the name is from the Latin 'ustulatus' = grilled or burnt, a reference to the colour at the tip of the flower spike.

English Name: Burnt Orchid. Also Burnt Tip Orchid.

French Name: Orchis brûlé (= Burnt Orchid).

5 Key Characters:
  • the tip of the flower spike is reddish brown to purply black.
  • the labellum (lower petal) is white with purply red pimples.
  • the sepals (upper 'petals') are red-brown pointed oval shapes.
  • the leaves are bluey green.
  • generally quite small (about 15cm high), although it can grow to twice that height.
Lookalikes: None. It is so much smaller than its Orchis spp cousins that there is not much danger of mistaking it, even though the flower colour and shape is similar. The species exhibits very little variation.

Habitat: Full sun, in dry mineral rich or damp soil, calcareous or acid. It can be found in short or long grassland and pasture.

Flowering Period: April-May-June-July. The leaves appear in the autumn. Pollinated by beetles and flies.

Status: Currently common in Indre et Loire (37) and Vienne (86), but rare in Indre (36) and becoming rarer in all lowland areas such as les 3 départements. Protected in Indre et Loire and Indre. Can be seen within 5km of Preuilly-sur-Claise and in the Brenne and can be easy to see. It is moderately well distributed throughout the Touraine, and quite abundant in the Claise Valley. Present in the Sologne. Studies in Estonia have shown that it is a short lived species and that colonies with a high instance of dormancy are likely to have a high annual mortality rate. Flowering plants very rarely die. The triggers for dormancy are unpredictable and seem to be very localised, varying even between geographically closely situated colonies and not related to wide scale climatic conditions.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

Growing along the fenceline of a cattle field, near Chaumussay, May.

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