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Wild orchids in the Apennines

by Ugo Pellini — last modified 2008-06-20 15:10

Go on the Orchid Trail in the Apennines near Reggio Emilia.

It's a little-known fact that of the hundred or so recognised species of orchids growing in Italy (there are around 25,000 known species in the world) at least fifty can be found in the province of Reggio Emilia. This is thanks to the mesophyll woods, oak and chestnut forests and mountain pastures which, along with a warm damp climate and a suitable soil, create the ideal habitat for orchid cultivation. Most of these orchids flower in the period between April and May with some lasting until August.
Enthusiasts should head for the Secchia valley or in and around the Gessi further up the valley where the more beautiful orchids have been spotted.

morioOrchis morio is known for its vivid flowers and can be found throughout the province. It is a small (reaching a maximum height of 50 cm) and hardy plant. Blooms vary from dark purple to violet and white.

Ophrys fuciflora can be found on the limestone configurations of Monte Carù. Don't be surprised if you can't find it as it is camouflaged as a female bumble bee. The camouflage is so good that the male bee is attracted to the orchid and after an unsuccessful mating session flies off to pollinate the next 'bee' in his path. Indeed to make the 'courtship' even more realistic the orchid has learned to produce pheromone-like chemicals thereby making it all the more irresistible to the unsuspecting bee.

Orchis militaris: is a rare variety which seems to be confined to the area around the Fonti di Poiano. The orchid's name comes from the fact that the flowers look like laughing monkeys.

bertoloniOphrys bertolonii can also be found at the Fonti di Poiano and are normally 10-30 cm high. This variety is named after Doctor Bertoloni, the Bolognese doctor and botanist. Its characteristic curved shape is thought to reflect the preferred sexual position of hymenopters (a group of insects including bees, wasps and ants) who, during reproduction arch their abdomens.

Epipactis palustris is a particularly tall variety (some plants measure up to 90 cm). It is quite rare and is generally found in well-lit damp areas which are prone to flooding. It can be found, once more, at the Fonti di Poiano and is in flower from June to August.

The Orchid Web - - find out more about orchids on this informative site
Parco del Gigante - - Parco del Gigante - Alto Appennino Emiliano
Spontaneous orchids - - Italian Research Group on spontaneous orchids
Study on the orchids - - study on the orchids by the University of Lille (in French)

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