John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Gymnadenia conopsea v borealis

This variety of Gymnadenia conopsea was first described from Cumberland, England by Druce in 1918 and its name refers to its distribution in the boreal regions of Europe.

The range of borealis is not known with any certainty and although it seems likely that the plant exists in suitable habitats throughout temperate Europe, it has only been formally recorded from the United Kingdom. It's preferred haunts are damp meadows and fens on acidic to neutral substrates and this choice of growing conditions is one of the key differentiators between it and  Gymnadenia conopsea v conopsea which is primarily an orchid of neutral to alkaline soils.

Distinguishing the two varieties is extremely difficult and although borealis is described as having several features that set it apart, recognizing these in the field can be demanding to say the least. This can be even more problematic where neutral soil conditions permit an overlap of range and the consequent production of intermediates due to hybridization.

Notwithstanding the above, borealis is described as being a spindlier, fewer flowered plant that does not form the dense, cylindrical inflorescence of conopsea and is usually a darker shade of pink.  It is also said that the lip of the individual flower is smaller and less obviously divided.

In Britain the variety is mainly found in the north of England and Scotland but healthy populations may also be found further south and notably in the New Forest and lowland heaths of Dorset. The pictures are from Hampshire and Cumbria, England, dating from the beginning of July.