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Gymnadenia rhellicani var rosea

The type species was first described as Nigratela rhellicani by Teppner and Klein from the Gurktaler Alps, Austria in 1990 and was named in honour of the 16th century Swiss naturalist, J. Muller who was also known by the name of Rhellicanus. Variety rosea however was first identified as long ago as 1868, being at that time named N. nigra var rosea (Vis & Sacc : Goiran) and subsequently reclassified into the Gymnadenia genus .

G. rhellicani var rhellicani itself is indisputably the most widespread and frequently encountered of the seventeen species currently comprising the G. nigra group. Its range takes it from the western Alps, eastwards to the Carpathians and although unconfirmed, probably into Russia. It can be abundant in its favoured locations, where it grows in short alpine turf at altitudes between 1000 and 2800 metres.

G. rhellicani var rosea can be encountered anywhere within the previously outlined range of the type species but is however extremely rare outside of the Italian, South Tyrol and particularly the Val Gardena. A particular stronghold is the Alpe di Siusi where it grows in short alpine turf at an altitude of between 1500 and 2000 metres. The underlying composition of the rock, although calcareous is different from the surrounding Dolomitic limestone, being of more recent origin and less alkaline. This contrast seems to be a significant factor in the increased presence, not just of rosea but of several other intriguing colour variations. A further point of interest is the complete lack of any other Vanilla Orchid species in the area, whereas the surrounding mountains can boast several.

The pictures are from the Alpe di Siusi, Italy and date from the first week of July.