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Anacamptis papilionacea ssp aegaea

The A. papilionacea group consists of just two species, A. papilionacea itself, commonly known as the Pink Butterfly Orchid and
the Fan Lipped Orchid, A. collina. The former is a polymorphic species with a wide distribution and these factors unsurprisingly give rise to a significant range of natural and regional variations. First described by Linnaeus as long ago as 1759, the taxon has been intensely studied ever since, leading to the recognition of many forms and the creation of a list of synonyms far too extensive to detail in these pages (no less than 67 in 2013). A genetic study in 1993, comparing sub-species grandiflora, papilionacea and aegaea (then heroica) from around the Mediterranean, determined that the minimal genetic difference's discovered, were consistent with nothing more than separate geographic populations within a single cohesive gene pool and that being simple morphs, sub-species status could not be justified. These results were not universally accepted and new taxa continue to emerge.

A. papilionacea ssp aegaea was named according to the findings of a paper in 2013 by Lewis and Kreutz. which sought to restore some taxonomic order to a state of confusion in respect of the early flowering form of Pink Butterfly Orchid from the Aegean, formerly known variously as A. papilionacea ssp heroica, O. papilionacea ssp heroica or V. papilionacea var aegaea. Space does not permit even a precis of this interesting and thoroughly researched piece of work, other than to record its conclusion, which was that the basionym heroica was invalid as it is more correctly a synonym for A. laxiflora.

A. papilionacea ssp aegaea is a sturdy, dense flowered plant with a large lip, very reminiscent of grandiflora, albeit less broad shouldered. A distinctive feature of aegaea is the way in which the perianth is normally less closed than that of grandiflora and indeed most other sub-species. It ranges throughout the Aegean basin, across the Peloponnese to the Ionian islands in the west and with a relatively small diaspora in Anatolia to the east. It is an early flowerer which in Crete can be in full bloom by late February.