John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Serapias cordigera

S. cordigera was first described in 1763 from the Cadiz region of Spain and its name refers to the  conspicuous heart-shaped epichile that confers on this Serapias such an imposing and handsome appearance.

Identification of this species is relatively straightforward as despite the orchids overall resemblance to both S. orientalis and S. carica with which its range overlaps, the more imposing and distinctively shaped epichile is diagnostic. Other features which serve to assist with differentiation are the dark, purplish brown colouration of the flowers and the dense, crowded appearance of the inflorescence which tops the longish stem. Picture 6 depicts another significant differentiator, this being the dark striation at the base of the stem and leaves.

Problems with identification can occur where hybridization has confused some of its characteristic features and as with the other species in its genus, the propensity to form intermediates with neighbouring species is well known. There are meadows in the Var where S. cordigera and no less than five other Serapias species form carpets of intermediates over hundreds of square metres.

This species may be found from Portugal, across the Mediterranean to Anatolia, although distribution is unaccountably patchy. In Portugal a new sub-species has recently been described,  S. cordigera ssp gentilii, which differs marginally in floral detail but importantly is a paler colour and rarely a greenish shade that can be confused with S. perez-chiscanoi.