Gymnadenia conopsea: making sense of it



It seems strange that, in general, our orchids do not have a scent, they are such splendid plants that you might expect perfume as well as looks. One orchid that defies this trend is the aptly named fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) which does indeed produce a strong, sweet smell. This is helpful because being a purple spiked flower head like many other orchids in Britain it is an easy way to identify it from the other look-a-likes.
There are other differences between the fragrant orchids and its cousins. The flowers are a very pale pink not deep purple or mauve. It is quite a short, slim flower spike with the individual flowers in the spike less densely packed than in many other orchids. Add to this very narrow, pale green leaves that lack spots an then put them all together with the scent and you have it - a fragrant orchid.
This is very much a plant of chalk grassland and although there is a lot of chalk in Dorset I understand that this particular orchid is only found in three or four sites on iron age hill forts where the ground has been undisturbed for centuries. 
Gymnadenia conopsea: making sense of it

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