John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
Home Back to Neotinea species Links

Neotinea tridentata

This is the title member of the N. tridentata group whose name means "three teeth" and refers to the canine-like points on the hood. It was first described from Slovenia in 1772 and originally grouped with the genus Neotinia before being reclassified as an Orchis. After considerable recent research the O. tridentata group has now been returned to the Neotinea genus. 

N. tridentata is a common orchid with a widespread range similar to that of N. lactea though it is somewhat rarer in the west and increases in frequency as it travels eastwards. Its distribution is not however fully understood due to confusion with other group members, notably the morphologically similar but not closely related N. commutata.

The related species with which it is most frequently mistaken is N. lactea but there are significant characteristics which help simplify identification. Firstly, N. lactea has an elongated inflorescence that usually (but by no means always) carries numerous tightly packed flowers. N. tridentata on the other hand has a short, often oval shaped or vaguely flat topped inflorescence that tops a relatively tall stem. The second distinguishing feature is the lip, which in N. lactea  has a knee-joint type of profile below the stigmatic cavity and strongly recurved lip edges. With N. tridentata the whole lip is much flatter and photograph 1 depicts this very well. Finally and importantly N. tridentata lacks the olive green colouration to the inside of the hood.

The illustrations are from Southern France,  Croatia and Mt Hymettus (Athens).