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