Fragrant orchids – Gymnadenia species
Common Fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea is the only Fragrant orchid I’ve seen so far. It likes chalk and is also known as Chalk fragrant orchid. I found it in shortish grass at Cradle Valley Seaford within metres of Burnt orchid and Common spotted orchid. The genus Gymnadenia also contains Gymnadenia borealis (Heath Fragrant-orchid) and Gymnadenia densiflora (Marsh Fragrant-orchid) and there is some discussion as to whether these are species or subspecies.
Identifying Common Fragrant orchid
Gymnadenia conopsea looks superficially similar to Common spotted orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii in that they both have pale pink flower spikes. However the Fragrant orchid that I saw was slightly taller at about 30cm and had no markings. The leaves and petals were both mostly unmarked. I noticed that the flower stem was purple and the spur was long and pointed. In my opinion the flower head itself was narrower than the Common spotted.
The plain green fragrant orchid leaves reminded me of bluebell leaves and were deeply keeled (bent along the rib so as to appear V shaped).
When I went back to the same area a couple of weeks earlier in the following year, I was more confident in the ID. There was a lovely soft rose pink to the flowers with no markings, and very long spurs. The upper sepal and petals formed a hood shape.
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2021 was a particularly good year for orchids in my neck of the woods!