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Anacamptis pyramidalis var.urvilleana
A. pyramidalis var. urvilleana was first described by Sommier and Caruana Gatto as a full species, A. urvilleana in 1915 and at the time it was considered to be a Maltese endemic. Despite some characteristic phenological and morphological differences between it and A. pyramidalis, subsequent studies demoted the taxon to varietal status (Kreutz), declaring it to be of little evolutionary significance.
The range of A. pyramidalis var. urvilleana is not fully understood but it is only known with certainty from Malta and Crete. Part of the reason for this uncertainty is the presence in the Mediterranean of a further variant A. pyramidalis var. brachystachys, which is a very similar plant, considered by many in fact to be indistinguishable.
When compared to the type species, urvilleana is smaller flowered with a looser inflorescence of pale, often pure white flowers that form a conical head rather than the familiar and typical pyramidal shape. The most significant differentiating feature however is its flowering period which commences in March and is usually completed by mid April. In Malta where both type and variant occur, there is said to be absolutely no overlap of flowering, with urvilleana dead and gone before the blooms of A. pyramidalis have even formed.
A. pyramidalis var. urvilleana is a very localized orchid but can form large colonies in its preferred sites, these usually being a dry position on calcareous soils in either full sun or open woodland. The pictures all come from central Crete, dating from the first week of April, at which time many of the plants had already faded. The plants depicted here were very much the last survivors.