John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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  Anacamptis palustris
 

A. palustris was first described from Himberg (Germany) by Jaquin in 1786 and its name literally means "from marshes", a reference to its prefered habitat.

This is a close relative of A. laxiflora and at first sight is often mistaken for that species, particularly as its  found in similar damp to wet conditions. Closer inspection however reveals differences and most notably in the shape and pattern of the lip. Whereas A. laxiflora has a plain or lightly spotted white central lip with lateral lobes that are strongly reflexed, A. palustris shows strong purple striation and lateral lobes that are only marginally curved backwards, being better described as flared. It is a tall plant up to around 60cms with a relatively lax inflorescence.

Distinguishing this species from the subspecies elegans is less easy and perhaps the most reliable differentiating feature is the spur which in A. palustris is either straight or descendant whilst subsp. elegans is always ascendant and often markedly so. Other less consistent differences are the latters smaller, more pointed sepals, a denser, taller inflorescence and bracts which are usually significantly longer than the ovary. A. palustris has a more widespread distribution throughout most of continental Europe including Scandinavia whereas subsp. elegans has a more easterly range from Croatia through Greece and the Aegean to Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Russia. The two taxons have considerable scope for range overlap but despite similar habitat preferences are rarely found growing together.

The pictures here are from a seaside sand dune system in the Province of Lecce, southern Italy, dating from the end of April.