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Gymnadenia rhellicani

This species was first described by Teppner and Klein from the Gurktaler Alps, Austria in 1990 and was named in honour of the 16th century Swiss naturalist J. Muller who was also known by the name of Rhellicanus.

This orchid was previously known as Nigritella rhellicani but the species has now been incorporated into the genus Gymnadenia and the G. nigra group into which this species is placed, has grown from a single taxon to    no less than thirteen. The origins of the group are considered to be monophyletic and this factor would help account for the close similarity of its members.

Gymnadenia rhellicani was originally considered to be a subspecies of nigraand was the classic representative of that well known and best loved of high alpine species, the Black Vanilla Orchid. This name is a reference to both the black/red colouration and the strong scent of vanilla produced by the small, delicate flowers. It is certainly the most widespread of the thirteen newly described species with a range that takes it from the western Alps right across to the Carpathians, perhaps as far as Russia. It is also the least rare and although generally localised, can often be abundant in its favoured sites.

G. rhellicani is a prolific nectar producer and is known to attract numerous insects with more than fifty of them recognized as pollinators.  Interestingly a high proportion of these pollinators are various species of the many butterflies that thrive in the high alpine pastures.

The pictures are from the Vercors National Park to the south of Grenoble and date from the 10th of July.