John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Gymnadenia stiriaca

This species was first described as G. rubra v stiriaca by Rechinger from the Styrian Alps of Austria in 1906 and then subsequently reclassified as G. stiriaca by Teppner and Klein. It is an apomictic species and a member of the growing G. nigra group of the genus Gymnadenia.

This is a very scarce orchid, endemic to the western Austrian Alps where it is known from just a few high calcareous massifs. It was never anything but rare, but is now an IUCN Red Data listed species that has become highly threatened due to increased alpine tourism and changing pastoral practices. In one of its previously well known strongholds in the Salzkammergut range, it is now reduced to single figure numbers of flowering plants per year.

G. stiriaca is a species that due to its limited range and distinctive appearance is unlikely to be confused with any other. It is one of the "pink" vanilla orchids but differs from its cousins in the shape of the  inflorescence, which although in its early stages is typically a flat pyramid (see pics 3, 5 and 8), matures into a roughly cylindrical form, significantly taller than it is wide. Individual flower colouration is pink at the base with paler tips to the perianth segments, there is not however any overall colour zonation as in G. buschmanniae or G. lithopolitanica. The inflorescence whitens with age before browning occurs with anthesis.

As with its cousins, it is a plant of calcareous alpine pastures above 1800 metres, where it forms very low density, loose colonies from mid June through to mid July. The pictures come from the Salzkammergut massif, dating from the first week of July, 2019.