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Dactylorhiza guimaraesii

This orchid was first described as Orchis romana var. guimaraesii by E.G.Camus in 1928, then in 1945 as Orchis guimaraesii by Rivas Goday. Some 61 years later, H.A.Pedersen described Dactylorhiza romana subsp. guimaraesii. Finally Delforge wrote a paper in Naturalistes Belge in 2015 referring to the plant as Dactylorhiza guimaraesii, though there is still no great academic unanimity as to whether the orchid should be regarded as a subspecies or a full species in its own right.

This is a rather rare orchid of the D. sambucina group which has a distribution that for many years was thought to represent the western Mediterranean range of the very similar D. markusii. Over the last twenty years however, it became more widely accepted that the populations in southern Spain did not conform to the type identity of D. markusii and consequent studies confirmed them to be the species (or subspecies) we know today as guimaraesii. 

In Europe it is confined to southern Spain and Portugal and in northern Africa its range is limited to Algeria and Morocco. It grows on neutral to acidic substrates in full sun or mid shade and shows a preference for open montane woodland. It can be seen from the photographs that the examples depicted here were growing on a sparsely vegetated hillside with occasional chestnut trees providing light cover. D. guimaraesii is a very similar orchid to D. markusii both of which are readily separated from D. romana by the scalloped lateral lobes of the pale yellow, sometimes white flowers. This scalloping is though less proounced in D. guimaraesii.  Identification shouldn't however be difficult given the differences in range of the two species.

The photographs come from the province of Alicante in southern Spain, dating from the middle of April.