Gymnadenia conopsea - Fragrant Orchid

Scientific Name:
Gymnadenia conopsea. From the Greek gymnos (= 'naked') and aden (= 'gland'), referring to the absence of a membrane around the base of the pollenia; and conops (= 'fly') and opsis (= 'appearance'), so that the flower is being compared to a gnat.

English Name: Fragrant Orchid.

French Name: Orchis moucheron (= Gnat Orchid). Also Orchis moustique (= Mosquito Orchid), Gymnadénie à long éperon (= Long 'Tailed' Gymnadene).

5 Key Characters:
  • 20-60 pink to violet pink flowers in a slender cylindrical spike 5-30 cm long.
  • the three lobes of the labellum (bottom petal) nearly equal.
  • the 10-20 mm long thin and downward curving eperon (the 'tail' at the back of the flower) is significantly longer than the ovary (the flower tube behind the petals).
  • pleasantly scented.
  • cylindrical stem, often tinted red-brown towards the tip.
Lookalikes: Other Gymnodenia spp, however, G. conopsea is by far the most common species in les 3 départements, and can be distinguished from the other two species by the almost equal size and length of its labellum lobes. It is also usually larger and more robust, and the lateral sepals droop below horizontal. G. odoratissima and G. pyrenaica both have middle lobes that are clearly longer than the laterals. G. conopsea has bigger flowers than the other two, less perfume and its eperon (spur or 'tail') is much longer.

Habitat: Found in a wide variety of surroundings - dry calcareous grassland, woodland fringes, meadows, in full sun.

Flowering Period: May-June-July-August.

Status: Quite widely distributed and locally common in Indre et Loire (37), where it is most abundant in the Claise River catchment, common in Vienne (86), but uncommon in Indre (36). Can be seen within a 5 km radius of Preuilly-sur-Claise. A few sites in the Sologne.

References and Further Reading:
Les Echos de l'Association de Botanique et de Mycologie de Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine Année 2011 has a couple of paragraphs on G. odoratissima and G. conopsea at La Forge and a few sentences about the site itself as well as the nearby Croix-Sourd. Both sites have G. conopsea present, and La Forge also has G. odoratissima making it possible to compare the two species directly. Note that permission is required from the landowner to enter the site at La Forge.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

All photos will enlarge in a new window if you click on them. Row 1 left on a limestone ridge near Chaumussay, May, showing the reddish stem that many specimens have; centre left leaf rosette on a limestone ridge / roadside bank near Chaumussay, April; centre right & right on a limestone ridge near Preuilly-sur-Claise, May. Row 2 left as Row 1 right; centre left typical Fragrant Orchid flowers, with downswept lateral sepals, evenly sized lobes on the bottom petal and long thin curved spur, La Croix-Sourd (a limestone butt near Chaumussay), June; centre & centre right on La Croix-Sourd (a limestone butt near Chaumussay), June. Row 3 left & centre left as Row 2 right. Note Heath Fritillary Melitaea athalia resting on one of the flower spikes; centre right & right as Row 2 centre left. Row 4 left,centre left & right atypical pale specimen; right as Row 2 centre.

A Hummingbird Hawk Moth Macroglossum stellatarum nectars at the flowers.

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