Orchids in Cyprus

Following on from yesterday: Because we had a car, we explored the Troodos mountains several times. Driving in Cyprus is not difficult because they drive on the left. As an aside, you don’t need to take adaptors for your electrical items either because they have ‘UK/Irish’ plugs and sockets. Anyway, Orchis italica is one of the most widespread orchids in the Med. It is commonly called the naked man orchid and the lower petal (labellum) has two arms and two legs and is very well endowed. It can grow to 70cm high with clusters of up to 100 flowers but half that is more common. It grows on alkaline and acid soils and was often seen in vast numbers, in mixed meadows in full sun. It was a very beautiful plant.

The most striking, and possibly most common, of all the native orchids is Himantoglossum robertianum (sometimes called Barleria) and known as the giant orchid. It is certainly big and can grow to almost 1m high with broad, plain green basal foliage that is as robust as colchicum leaves. It grows on alkaline soils and often in part shade, beside bushes. Large in all its parts, it is a good marker of orchid habitat and whenever we stopped because we saw it, other orchids were always present. It tends to bloom earlier than many others so many of the plants I saw were past their best (in late March and early April).

The flowers are various tints of brown, ecru and pinks and they have a fragrance. Although some plants have flowers that are largely pink, I seem to have found mostly plants with lots of brown in the blooms. It is closely related to H. metlesicsianum which is only found on Tenerife, where it is rare.

My favourite of all the orchids we saw, was Orchis quadripunctata, or what I thought was this species. I found it to be common on heaps of rock waste beside many roads, often at the top of steep slopes, meaning a precarious scramble to see it. The plants were all small but are (in theory) easy to recognise because of the four spots on the labellum. In practice the flowers often have fewer or more spots and I think that the plants I found may be O. sezikiana. The two species also hybridise and my plants might be hybrids or O. troodii. Orchis troodii does seem to have spotted leaves and paler flowers which seems to suggest that this is the correct name. It was certainly locally common and very cute.

Tongue orchids (serapias) are not the most showy of orchids, the flowers seem to consist purely of a liverish purple labellum, but the whole plants are very striking. I got in a mind meltdown trying to identify what I found, partly because the plants were only just starting to bloom and I will call this one S. bergonii for the sake of argument.

The real nightmare came when I tried to name the ophrys orchids, that group of strange orchids that mimic insects. So please let me know if you know the real names of these. There are 200 species in Europe and the differences between them are often small. Even in a small population of the plants I saw significant variations.

I think this is O. umbilicata.

I think this is O. sphegodes, the early spider orchid. There are many subspecies.

I think this is O. lutea and the one below is the closely related O. phryganae.

Tomorrow a mix of other wild flowers

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4 Comments on “Orchids in Cyprus”

  1. David J
    January 15, 2023 at 7:02 pm #

    Lovely shots Geoff.

  2. Paddy Tobin
    January 16, 2023 at 9:05 am #

    Beautiful plants.

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