John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Anacamptis pyramidalis var.brachystachys

A. pyramidalis var. brachystachys has been known as a variety since the mid 19th century and its name literally means "short spike" which is a reference to the lesser height of the flower head when compared to the type species.

This difference in the size of the inflorescence is one of the characteristic features separating it from A. pyramidalis, but whilst this holds good in the majority of plants, it should be noted that as can be seen from the picture opposite, some examples can produce a more significant flower spike of comparable proportions. The two other principal differentiators are the lax inflorescence and pale colouration which can vary from pure white to lilac and light pink. These three key features do however apply equally to A. pyramidalis var. urvilleana , another and extremely similar orchid from the eastern Mediterranean. These two variants seem to be separable only by differing distribution with urvilleana restricted to Malta and Crete and brachystachys with a highly disjunct range from Portugal through to Anatolia.

Both variants have an early flowering period which commences in March and is usually completed by mid to late April, at a time when A. pyramidalis is at the very beginning of its flowering cycle. Whilst it is therefore a relatively straightforward process to separate variant and type, it is far less easy to distinguish these two variants.  

A. pyramidalis var. brachystachys is a very localized orchid but can form large colonies in its preferred sites, these usually being a dry position on calcareous soils in either full sun or open woodland. The pictures come from the Lakonia region of Peloponnese and date from the second week of April.