Orchids of Alonnisos

Orchids of Alonnisos


The variety of the orchids of Alonissos is limited and certainly smaller than the corresponding flora of the other Sporades. However, it should be borne in mind that the research on the flora of Alonissos was and still is less intensive than in the other Sporades, including the islands of Kyra-Panagia and Gioura islands, probably because of the greater scientific interest expected in these larger or more isolated botanical laboratories.

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Orchids of Alonnisos: Ophrys fusca subsp. iricolor (Oprhys iricolor)

Thus, while about 30 species and subspecies are reported for Skopelos, and about 20 for Skiathos, just 17 taxa are known with certainty in Alonissos. Of course, these numbers are of relative importance, as orchids are known to be a field of perpetual taxonomic fermentation and many of the taxa mentioned in older reports have passed into subspecies, hybrids or forms, or have been completely integrated into other taxa. Also, due to unsystematic research, some finds are classified incorrectly or with doubt because they are recorded in early or late stages of growth or flowering.

It is certain that more methodical investigations, with a longer time span, will yield a few more species. Of course, this will not change the image that Alonissos presents in terms of flora: a small island of the Eastern Mediterranean, with a typical diversity of biotopes, at the edge of a biogeographical area with moderate dynamics.

The genus Anacamptis

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Orchids of Alonnisos: Anacamptis coriophora subsp. fragrans

Only two members of the genus Anacamptis are known from Alonissos. These are species with a wide distribution, growing in habitats extensively present on the island; they even seem to share the space: Anacamptis pyramidalis, well-known from all over Greece, prefers the shadiest points of the scrub and the openings of the pine forest, while the also common Anacamptis coriophora subsp. fragrans (which in older publications is referred to as Anacamptis fragrans) is less demanding and is satisfied with drier and brighter locations.

The genus Orchis

Alonnisos topoguide
Orchids of Alonnisos: Orchis italica

Just two members of the large genus Orchis have been recorded in Alonissos. These are the well-known Orchis italica and the ubiquitous Orchis quadripunctata. The two species share the more and less shaded areas of scrub and heather, respectively.

The genus Ophrys

The genus Ophrys is the most long-suffering in terms of taxonomic rearrangements, doubts and of course disagreements within the small botanical family. It is impossible for the amateur naturalist to obtain a clear and fixed list of the species of a locality, so as to make his identifications with safety. Most species present themselves in many and quite different phenotypic forms, which have been classified under innumerable names, names that collapse and disappear, but also reappear. Here we follow the typology of the most official database for the plants of Greece, the Vascular Plants of Greece.

According to the nomenclature of Vascular Plants of Greece, the distinct taxa of the genus Ophrys in Alonissos are 8 (6 species, plus 2 subspecies).

Alonnisos topoguide
Alonnisos topoguide: Ophrys scolopax subsp. cornuta (Ophrys cornuta)

Lets start with Ophrys sphegodes subsp. mammosa (often referred to as an independent species, Ophrys mammosa), Ophrys scolopax subsp. cornuta (referred to as Ophrys minuscula), and Ophrys heldreichii, currently classified as a subspecies of Ophrys omegaifera (O. omegaifera subsp. fleischmannii).

The Ophrys fusca group is represented in Alonissos with the subspecies Ophrys fusca subsp. fusca (which is usually referred in the literature as Ophrys fusca) and Ophrys fusca subsp. iricolor (often listed as an independent species, Ophrys iricolor).

The very common Ophrys lutea is differentiated in Alonissos into Ophrys lutea subsp. lutea and Ophrys lutea subsp. galilaea (ie the very often and persistently referred to as Ophrys sicula).

Less taxonomic uncertainty surrounds Ophrys apifera and Ophrys tenthredinifera, spotted relatively easily in the phrygana zone of Alonissos.

The genus Serapias

Alonnisos topoguide
Alonnisos topoguide: Serapias orientalis

One of the most peculiar, morphologically, genera of orchids is Serapias. In Alonissos, Serapias parviflora, Serapias bergonii and Serapias orientalis have been recorded.

Limodorum abortivum

Alonnisos topoguide
Orchids of Alonnisos: Limodorum abortivum

Limodorum abortivum is the only representative of its genus in Greece. This temperate orchid is present in a wide range of environments, thanks to a dual growth strategy: while it retains the capacity for photosynthesis, like all green plants, it nevertheless depends for its survival mainly on symbiotic relationships with subterranean fungi. In addition, the plant spends most of its life as an underground shoot and grows and flowers in the Spring, if conditions allow. This is how it survives in environments that are little or occasionally friendly, such as the forests of Alonissos.

Text and photos by T. Adamakopoulos

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A detailed chapter of the orchids of Alonnisos Island, along with photos and descriptions for orchid species, is included in the digital field guide Alonnisos topoguide.

Digital field guide Alonnisos topoguide is available for Android devices as an in-app purchase within the application topoguide Greece. Alonnisos topoguide is a member of the Greek Islands group.

Digital field guide Alonnisos topoguide is also available for iOS (iPhone and iPad) devices as an in-app purchase within the application Topoguide Greece. There also, Alonnisos topoguide is a member of the Greek Islands group.