Gargano: the European hot-spot for orchids

I had the pleasure to lead, as ornithologist, two groups of Naturetrek in the Gargano  (Puglia, Italy), where I discovered an unknow treasure: the peninsula hosts a huge variety of orchids (Orchidaceae), with about 80 different species (93 in the last list of the website http://www.orchideedelgargano.it) and many more subspecies and forms. 

Considering that the number of orchids in Europe and in the Mediterranean basin is estimated in about 500 species and that the Italian list includes more than 200, to get such a biodiversity in an area of about 2100 km² means that the Gargano peninsula is probably the best hot spot for these amazing flowers in our continent!

Even if I’m not a proper botanist, but just a general nature enthusiast, I couldn’t avoid to be rapted by the beauty of the flora and the gorgeous landscapes of the area.

Me and my awesome colleague Andrew Cleave slept with the two groups first in the UNESCO Heritage Monte Sant’Angelo (Foggia province), a town famous because of its Longobard vestiges…

…and next in the little town of Peschici (Foggia province), that faces north into the Adriatic basin.

During the days, we spent time in a lot of lovely localities, from the area of Santa Maria di Pulsano abbey…

Santa Maria di Pulsano
Santa Maria di Pulsano

…to Mattinata…

Mattinata
Mattinata

…Monte Sacro…

Monte Sacro
Monte Sacro

…Foresta Umbra…

Foresta Umbra
Foresta Umbra

…and the limestones of around San Nicandro Garganico…

San Nicandro Garganico
San Nicandro Garganico

…always passing through superb meadows rich in orchids, asphodels and other interesting flowers.

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It was really a shame that I was with only my Canon Powershot SX50 HS and I couldn’t spend too much time photographing but, as usual when I’m leading, I left my photo ambition at home, in order to put as much energies I can in sharing my knowledges with the group. Anyway that’s the reason of low quality of pictures of this post.

Anyway the Mediterranean flora, even excluding the orchids, was so colourful and various that I guess my pictures will transmit anyway some of the emotions of the garden of Eden I visited.

Of couse such a variety of flowers and plants attracted a number of other creatures, from butteflies to moths, grasshhoppers and lizards.

The two tours I led were not focused on birds, so we didn’t visit the best hotspot of the area for birdwatching, excluding the nice Manfredonia saltpans that is definitely a great birding place. However I observed more than 100 species including: Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), Pygmy Cormorant (Microcarbo pygmaeus), Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus), Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus), Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei), Little Tern (Sternula albifrons), Black Tern (Chlidonias niger), Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur), Alpine Swift (Tachymarptis melba), Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus), Bee-eater (Merops apiaster), Hoopoe (Upupa epops), Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus), Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator), Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus), Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans), Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla), Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla), Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus), Blue Rock-thrush (Monticola solitarius), Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica), Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis), Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus), Black-headed Wagtail (Motacilla flava feldegg), Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) and Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus).

Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)
Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)

But of course the main target of the tours were the fantastic orchids of Gargano.

The list of taxa I photographed during the two weeks is the following:

1) Bug Orchid Anacamptis coriophora ssp. fragrans

Bug Orchid (Anacamptis coriophora ssp. fragrans)
Bug Orchid (Anacamptis coriophora ssp. fragrans)

2) Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio

Green-winged Orchid (Anacamptis morio)
Green-winged Orchid (Anacamptis morio)

3) Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio ssp. picta

Green-winged Orchid (Anacamptis morio ssp. picta)
Green-winged Orchid (Anacamptis morio ssp. picta)

4) Butterfly Orchid Anacamptis papilionacea

Butterfly Orchid (Anacamptis papilionacea)
Butterfly Orchid (Anacamptis papilionacea)

5) Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis

Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)
Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

6) White Helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium

White Helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium)
White Helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium)

7) Narrow-leaved Helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia

Narrow-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia)
Narrow-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia)

8) Sack-carrying Dactylorhiza Dactylorhiza maculata ssp. saccifera

Sack-carrying Dactylorhiza (Dactylorhiza maculata ssp. saccifera)
Sack-carrying Dactylorhiza (Dactylorhiza maculata ssp. saccifera)

9) Roman Dactylorhiza Dactylorhiza romana

Roman Dactylorhiza (Dactylorhiza romana)
Roman Dactylorhiza (Dactylorhiza romana)

10) Elder-flowered Orchid Dactylorhiza sambucina

Elder-flowered Orchid (Dactylorhiza sambucina)
Elder-flowered Orchid (Dactylorhiza sambucina)

11) Lizard Orchid Himantoglossum hircinum

Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum)
Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum)

12) Giant Orchid Himantoglossum robertianum (= Barlia robertianum)

Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum)
Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum)

13) Violet Limodore Limodorum abortivum

Violet Limodore (Limodorum abortivum)

14) Dense-flowered Orchid Neotinea maculata

Dense-flowered Orchid (Neotinea maculata)
Dense-flowered Orchid (Neotinea maculata)

15) Three-toothed Orchid Neotinea tridentata

Three-toothed Orchid (Neotinea tridentata)
Three-toothed Orchid (Neotinea tridentata)

16) Burnt Orchid Neotinea ustulata

Burnt Orchid (Neotinea ustulata)
Burnt Orchid (Neotinea ustulata)

17) Bird’s-nest Orchid Neottia nidus-avis

Bird's-nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis)
Bird’s-nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis)

18) Common Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera

Common Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)
Common Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)

19) Late Spider-orchid Ophrys holosericea ssp. apulica (= Ophrys fuciflora ssp. apulica), endemic of southern Italy

Late Spider-orchid (Ophrys holosericea ssp. apulica)
Late Spider-orchid (Ophrys holosericea ssp. apulica)

20) Bertoloni’s Bee Orchid Ophrys bertolonii ssp. bertolonii

Bertoloni's Bee Orchid (Ophrys bertolonii ssp. bertolonii)
Bertoloni’s Bee Orchid (Ophrys bertolonii ssp. bertolonii)

21) Bertoloni’s Bee Orchid Ophrys bertolonii ssp. bertoloniiformis, endemic of Puglia

Bertoloni's Bee Orchid (Ophrys bertolonii ssp. bertoloniiformis)
Bertoloni’s Bee Orchid (Ophrys bertolonii ssp. bertoloniiformis)

22) Bumblebee Orchid Ophrys bombyliflora

Bumblebee Orchid (Ophrys bombyliflora)
Bumblebee Orchid (Ophrys bombyliflora)

23) Ophrys corsica (= Ophrys lutea ssp. corsica)

Ophrys corsica
Ophrys corsica

24) Ophrys crabronifera ssp. biscutella (= Ophrys argolica ssp. biscutella), endemic of Southern Italy

Ophrys crabronifera ssp. biscutella
Ophrys crabronifera ssp. biscutella

25) Ophrys incubacea ssp. incubacea (= Ophrys sphegodes ssp. atrata)

Ophrys incubacea ssp. incubacea
Ophrys incubacea ssp. incubacea

26) Yellow Bee-orchid Ophrys lutea ssp. lutea

Yellow Bee-orchid (Ophrys lutea ssp. lutea)
Yellow Bee-orchid (Ophrys lutea ssp. lutea)

27) Woodcock bee-orchid Ophrys oestrifera ssp. montis-gargani, endemic of Gargano peninsula

Ophrys oestrifera ssp. montis-gargani
Ophrys oestrifera ssp. montis-gargani

28) Late Spider-orchid Ophrys holosericea ssp. parvimaculata (Ophrys fuciflora ssp. parvimaculata), endemic of southern Italy

Late Spider-orchid Ophrys holosericea ssp. parvimaculata
Late Spider-orchid (Ophrys holosericea ssp. parvimaculata)

29) Ophrys passionis ssp. garganica, endemic of Italy

Ophrys passionis ssp. garganica
Ophrys passionis ssp. garganica

30) Ophrys promontorii, endemic of peninsular Italy

Ophrys promontorii
Ophrys promontorii

31) Ophrys sicula (= Ophrys lutea ssp. minor)

Ophrys sicula
Ophrys sicula

32) Ophrys sipontensis (= Ophrys sphegodes ssp. sipontensis), endemic of southern Italy

Ophrys sipontensis
Ophrys sipontensis

33) Sawfly Orchid Ophrys tenthredinifera

Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera)
Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera neglecta)

34) Man Orchid Orchis anthropophora

Man Orchid (Orchis anthropophora)
Man Orchid (Orchis anthropophora)

35) Naked Man Orchid Orchis italica

Naked Man Orchid (Orchis italica)
Naked Man Orchid (Orchis italica)

36) Few-flowered Orchid Orchis pauciflora

Orchis pauciflora
Few-flowered Orchid (Orchis pauciflora)

37) Provence Orchid Orchis provincialis

Provence Orchid (Orchis provincialis)
Provence Orchid (Orchis provincialis)

38) Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea

Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea
Lady Orchid (Orchis purpurea)

39) Four-spotted Orchid Orchis quadripunctata

Four-spotted Orchid (Orchis quadripunctata)
Four-spotted Orchid (Orchis quadripunctata)

40) Heart-flowered Serapias Serapias cordigera

Heart-flowered Serapias (Serapias cordigera)
Heart-flowered Serapias (Serapias cordigera)

41) Tongue Serapias or Common Tongue-orchid Serapias lingua

Tongue Serapias (Serapias lingua)
Tongue Serapias (Serapias lingua)

42) Eastern Serapias Serapias orientalis ssp. apulica, endemic of Puglia

Serapias orientalis ssp. apulica
Eastern Serapias (Serapias orientalis ssp. apulica)

43) Small-flowered Tongue-orchid Serapias parviflora

Small-flowered Tongue-orchid Serapias parviflora
Small-flowered Tongue-orchid (Serapias parviflora)

44) Long-lipped Serapias Serapias vomeracea ssp. longipetala 

Long-lipped Serapias (Serapias vomeracea ssp. longipetala)
Long-lipped Serapias (Serapias vomeracea ssp. longipetala)

45) Long-lipped Serapias Serapias vomeracea ssp. vomeracea

Long-lipped Serapias (Serapias vomeracea ssp. vomeracea)
Long-lipped Serapias (Serapias vomeracea ssp. vomeracea)

Luca Boscain

3 thoughts on “Gargano: the European hot-spot for orchids

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