John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe

Traunsteinera globosa

This species was first described from Switzerland as an Orchis by Linnaeus in 1759, then reclassified in the following century by Reichenbach as Traunsteinera globosa. It is commonly known as the Globe Orchid and is one of alpine Europe's most characteristic and distinctive plants, rarely encountered at anything less than 1000 metres above sea level. At high altitudes it grows amongst other alpine specialists such as the Vanilla Orchids whereas at lower elevations it is frequently found in the company of orchids such as C. calceolus and O. spitzelli, though unlike these species, it seldom ventures far from a full sun position.

Traunsteinera is an isolated genus that molecular study has failed to link closely with any other, apart from a vague relationship to fellow mountain dweller Chamorchis, interestingly there are no records of T. globosa ever hybridizing, either interspecifically or intergenerically. In the European Alps identification is quite straightforward as no other species exhibit the characteristic densely flowered, spherical inflorescence that gives the taxon its specific name. A rare exception to this position is the only other member of the Traunsteinera genus, T. sphearica, a species that is only found in Anatolia and Russia but which although highly similar in form, is easily distinguished by its unspotted, pale yellow flowers.

As can be seen from the pictures, the flower head can vary considerably in size but it is however very consistent in its colouration, ranging only from light to mid pink with varying densities of magenta spotting. The stem is long, spindly and subject to kinking, particularly when supporting a large mature inflorescence as noted in the third photograph. T. globosa can be found in flower from May to August depending on altitude. The illustrations accompanying this text are from France, Italy and Austria, all dating from the first two weeks of July.