Orchids on Pelješac

Orchid enthusiast Frank Verhart continued his researches into European orchids during 2016. He found much of interest on the Pelješac peninsula.

Orchis tridentata Orchis tridentata Photo: Frank Verhart

Frank Verhart from the Netherlands has lifelong experience looking out for orchids, and his expertise increases year on year. In 2015 he explored the Dalmatian islands of Hvar and Brač as the guest of Eco Hvar, and introduced many to the magic of the often tiny treasures to be found in woodlands, fields, gardens and roadsides. He was able to show why it is so important to look after these protected plants, as they all too easily get overlooked when individuals and local authorities spray areas with herbicides, and as a result of thoughtless fly-tipping in the countryside. Mapping where the orchids are to be found plays a key role in their protection. Frank logs his orchid findings with care, resulting in detailed maps for the records. In his identifications and classifications, he uses the taxonomy from the standard work by the Belgian expert Pierre Delforge, 'Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East', published by Christopher Helm Publishers, 2006.

Aceras anthropophorum (Man orchid). Photo: Frank Verhart

Over several years, Frank has generously been sharing his detailed findings with Prof.dr.sc. Toni Nikolić at the Department of Botany in the Biology Division of Zagreb's Science University, who is responsible for compiling the full listing of Croatia's plants, the Flora Croatica Database.

Ophrys tommasinii. Photo: Frank Verhart

In 2016, Frank visited France and Croatia, by way of Slovenia. As he reports: "all still and as usual by hitch-hiking. On the way [to Croatia] I have visited and stayed overnight at Miran Ipavec's Autostoparski Muzej (Hitch-hiking Museum) in Bled, Slovenia. Miran is maybe the most experienced hitch-hiker, distance wise, in Slovenia.. I’ve again been able to do some very cool observations, especially Orchis ustulata and Cephalanthera damasonium (Burnt orchid and White helleborine) as they have never been reported from Pelješac before, and I am fairly confident indeed, that there are no official reports of those. The latter has recently been found by Croatian botanists for the first time on Mljet 2012 and Korčula 2013, I think this is quite remarkable..."

Orchis ustulata. Photo: Frank Verhart

The Orchis ustulata (neotinea ustulata, burnt orchid, burnt-tip orchid) is fairly common across Europe, to which it is native, but is considered endangered in the United Kingdom, according to the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. That said, Kew reports that there has been a significant decline in central Europe "due to habitat destruction as a result of building, quarrying and, in particular, more intense agricultural practices. Burnt-tip orchids can only survive in unfertilised, unploughed grassland due to their protracted underground growth period. In addition, where grazing is discontinued burnt-tip orchid is liable to decline because its small size means it cannot survive in long grass."

Cephalanthera damasonium. Photo: Frank Verhart

The Cephalanthera damasonium (White helleborine) which Frank identified on Pelješac is very rare on the peninsula, and this is its first entry on the Zagreb database. In Croatia it is considered endangered and is strictly protected. In the United Kingdom, by contrast, it is considered widespread, despite the loss of woodlands which are its natural habitat. The Cephalanthera damasonium develops slowly. One was nurtured with loving care over more than ten years in the grounds outside an Oxford brain research unit (MRC Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit), only to be mowed down one day in a thoughtless 'tidying up' landscaping operation, Maintenance of public green spaces should be based on an appreciation of the wonderful gifts of wild plants which they can bring. All too often there is a policy of suppressing anything which grows naturally, whether with herbicides, mowers or strimmers. In Croatia, and elsewhere, this means that the concept of protecting wild plants like orchids is completely disregarded.

Epipactis microphylla, flowering early, 22.04.2016. Photo: Frank Verhart

Another uncommon finding by Frank: "Epipactis microphylla (Small leaved helleborine) was reported for the first time from Pelješac in 2013, I found it as well in two plants in a different part of the peninsula." Frank also reported that it was flowering unusually early, on April 22nd 2016.

Ophrys bombyliflora. Photo: Frank Verhart

The Ophrys bombyliflora, another rare finding on Pelješac, gave Frank particular pleasure: "oh what a joy to see Ophrys bombyliflora again on Pelješac, after I had seen it in 1998 for the last (and only) time on Rhodos...! By heart I believe that Zagreb University has just one record of this species for Pelješac, and I have now reported them in another three locations."

Serapias ionica. Photo: Frank Verhart

The Serapias ionica is another rare find on Pelješac. It was first identified in 1988 on Cephalonia in Greece. It is thought to be found only on the Ionian Greek and Southern Dalmatian Croatian islands, but there is some hope that it might also appear on the mainland. On the coast, the Serapias ionica is felt to be at risk from agriculture and building development, especially in places where tourism is important to the local economy.

Orchis morio. Photo: Frank Verhart

Besides the rare findings on Pelješac, Frank observed many more familiar orchids. However, a couple appeared in unusual colours, notably the orchis morio (pictured above), and the orchis italica (below).

Orchis italica, unusual colour. Photo: Frank Verhart

One comment on Frank's picture gallery suggested that the Orchis italica colour might have been affected by radiation or pollution.

Anacamptis pyramidalis. Photo: Frank Verhart
Frank's trained eye can spot even the humblest orchid hidden among a host of other plants. Orchids also grow in specially vulnerable places like roadsides, where they are in danger of being crushed by carelessly parked cars, or even irresponsibly discarded rubbish. More awareness of the exquisite natural gifts all around us would allow these beautiful plants to flourish safely for generations to come. Without more care, there is great danger that many will be irredeemably lost.
To read Frank's detailed account of his observations of orchids in Croatia, click here.
To see more of Frank's gallery of orchid pictures from Pelješac on Facebook, click here - you need to have a Facebook account to access the page.
Key reference work: Delforge, Pierre, 2006. 'Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East', published by Christopher Helm Publishers. ISBN: 13: 9780713675252
Eco Hvar is extremely grateful to Frank Verhart for continuing to share his orchid explorations with us.
© Vivian Grisogono MA(Oxon) 2017
 

Related items

You are here: Home Nature Watch Orchids on Pelješac

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Extinction Rebellion protesters want a carbon-free UK by 2025. But can the financial and political hurdles be overcome?

    It is the near future. You wake in a house warmed by a heat pump that extracts energy from deep below the ground and delivers it to your home. (Your gas boiler was outlawed years ago.) You rise and make yourself a cup of tea – from water boiled on a hydrogen-burning kitchen stove. Then you head to work – in a robot-driven electric car directed by central control network to avoid traffic jams.

    At midday, you pause for lunch: a sandwich made of meat grown in a laboratory. At the end of the day, you are taken home by a robot car – through countryside festooned with solar panels and turbines.

    Continue reading...

  • The wardens of Britain’s small islands talk about daily life with little more than thousands of puffins for company. By Patrick Barkham. Photographs by Alex Ingram

    After supper, while Eddie Stubbings was washing up, huge flocks of puffins would come whirling past his kitchen window. Later, when the sun had finally dipped into the ocean, the Skomer night filled with the bizarre caterwauling of 350,000 pairs of manx shearwaters, which fly under the cover of darkness to burrows dotted across the small island.

    “Living on the island was absolutely amazing,” says Stubbings, 40. Alongside his partner, Bee Bueche, 41, he has completed six years working on Skomer, 720 acres of seabird-populated rocks off the Pembrokeshire coast.

    Continue reading...

  • Group’s ongoing peaceful disruption in London is gaining it global attention and new members

    On Monday morning a strange sight appeared, edging its way through the buses, taxis and shoppers on Oxford Street in London.

    A bright pink boat, named Berta Cáceres after the murdered Honduran environmental activist, was being pulled carefully through the traffic, eventually coming to a halt in the middle of one of London’s busiest thoroughfares.

    Continue reading...

  • An orchestra, a village, an entire country: the movement to rein in greenhouse gas emissions is growing

    We are all doomed, it is said. Carbon dioxide is amassing in the atmosphere at levels not seen for millions of years when there were trees at the South Pole and Florida was under water. We have barely a decade to make amends. Protesters are on the streets.

    But huge numbers of people have not given up. Not yet. Call them the carbon cutters. They are companies and cities, niche groups and nations. They are commuters and communes, off-gridders and off-setters, investors and institutions – and countless individuals, cutting their meat intake, installing solar panels, eschewing gas guzzlers and long-haul flights.

    Continue reading...

  • Fears for wildlife after fierce predators apparently discovered in Yorkshire

    Late on Monday night, a reporter at the Doncaster Free Press received an unusual phone call. A piranha, one of the world’s fiercest predators normally found stalking the waters of the Amazon basin, had apparently been discovered in a lake in Doncaster.

    There were dramatic rumours of ducks being massacred and other wildlife being torn to shreds by the razor-toothed fish in the freezing waters of Martinwells Lake.

    Continue reading...

  • Nation known for its natural beauty is under pressure with extinctions, polluted rivers and blighted lakes

    A report on the state of New Zealand’s environment has painted a bleak picture of catastrophic biodiversity loss, polluted waterways and the destructive rise of the dairy industry and urban sprawl.

    Environment Aotearoais the first major environmental report in four years, and was compiled using data from Statistics New Zealand and the environment ministry.

    Continue reading...

  • Financial sector warned it risks losses from extreme weather and its stakes in polluting firms

    The global financial system faces an existential threat from climate change and must take urgent steps to reform, the governors of the Bank of England and France’s central bank have warned, writing in the Guardian.

    In an article published in the Guardian on Wednesday aimed at the international financial community, Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, and François Villeroy de Galhau, the governor of the Banque de France, said financial regulators, banks and insurers around the world had to “raise the bar” to avoid catastrophe.

    Continue reading...

  • Scientists, including a descendant of Charles Darwin, are researching the birds’ preference for Berlin

    They were once among Britain’s most beloved singers, their “murmurs musical” giving melancholy poets solace in their darkest hours. But these days the world-famous warblers are more likely to be found jamming with jazz musicians in neglected Berlin parks than serenading Londoners in Berkeley Square. Some even claim that their latest outpourings feature elements of German techno.

    Luscinia megarhynchos, the common nightingale, has been shunning the UK since the 1960s, during which time the population has slumped by 90%. The number of birds in Berlin, however, is on the rise. According to cautious estimates by the city senate, the German capital’s nightingale population grew by 6% every year from 2006 to 2016: “a very high rate”, said Johannes Schwarz, a species conservation officer, who puts the current number of nesting pairs at between 1,300 and 1,700.

    Continue reading...

  • Scientists say a drastic cut in meat consumption is needed, but this requires political will

    It has been known for a while that the amount of animal products being eaten is bad for both the welfare of animals and the environment. People cannot consume 12.9bn eggs in the UK each year without breaking a few.

    But the extent of the damage, and the amount by which people need to cut back, is now becoming clearer. On Wednesday, the Lancet medical journal published a study that calls for dramatic changes to food production and the human diet, in order to avoid “catastrophic damage to the planet”.

    Continue reading...

  • The continent’s largest land mammal plays crucial role in spiritual lives of the tribes

    On 5,000 hectares of unploughed prairie in north-eastern Montana, hundreds of wild bison roam once again. But this herd is not in a national park or a protected sanctuary – they are on tribal lands. Belonging to the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of Fort Peck Reservation, the 340 bison is the largest conservation herd in the ongoing bison restoration efforts by North America’s Indigenous people.

    The bison – or as Native Americans call them, buffalo – are not just “sustenance,” according to Leroy Little Bear, a professor at the University of Lethbridge and a leader in the bison restoration efforts with the Blood Tribe. The continent’s largest land mammal plays a major role in the spiritual and cultural lives of numerous Native American tribes, an “integrated relationship,” he said.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds