John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Chamorchis alpina

Chamorchis alpina was first described by L. C. M. Richard from Lulea, Sweden in 1817. Its name refers to
its habitat preference and is the sole member of the genus Chamorchis

It is a widespread Eurasian species, being found throughout the boreo-alpine and temperate zones of Europe and beyond. It will tolerate a range of conditions but is at its most frequent in full sun, on calcareous soils in mountains up to an altitude of 2700 metres. In Scandinavia it can be found at sea level and in 1976 a curious find was recorded, when a single plant was discovered in the New Forest of Hampshire, England. C. alpina typically grows in short grassland or stony, bare ground where it forms significant colonies over a large area. This prolific colonization is enabled by highly effective vegetative propagation which serves to augment sexual reproduction where tiny alpine insects act as pollinators. Hybridization is rarely recorded.

It is the smallest orchid species in Europe, a feature which coupled with its dull green colouration make it easily overlooked. This orchid is unlikely to be confused with other species, as despite its small stature it's highly distinctive and in any event does not grow in particularly orchid rich areas. An exception to this can be the presence of the similarly coloured D. viridis ( Frog Orchid) which in exposed alpine conditions can be much reduced in size. There are however key distinguishing differences, the first of these being the leaves, which in C. alpina are numerous and grass like, in D. viridis there is a rosette of 2 or 3 small elliptical leaves. In C. alpina the flower lip is small and entire, in the Frog Orchid it is longer and divided at the tip.

The pictures are all from the Dolomites and date from the middle of July.