John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
Home Back to Epipactis species Links

Epipactis phyllanthes v cambrensis

E. phyllanthes  was first described by G. E. Smith from Sussex, England in 1852 but since that time several   variations have been recognized and subsequently an ongoing Europe wide debate as to the true status of these variants. The situation in England is becoming clearer and may well result in a future reduction in the number of varieties recognized. At the time of writing however, nothing has been formally written and we will continue for the time being on the basis of four British representatives and these are E. phyllanthes v pendulaE. phyllanthes v vectensis, E. phyllanthes v degenera and this variety E. phyllanthes v cambrensis.

was first discovered by Charles Thomas in 1941 though not formally described until 1950. It was originally awarded full species staus as E. cambrensis but subsequently re-classified as a variety. Despite the fact that the dune system where it occured was heavily botanized, the plant was not seen again untill 2004  when it was finally refound by Lewis and Spencer growing on the sand heaps which form its primary, perhaps only habitat (see picture 9). It is usually a smallish, pale green to yellow plant that is difficult to locate given its habit of growing on the steep sides of sand heaps amongst a tangle of course vegetation that serve to camouflage its presence (see photo 8). The  plant can in good years be reasonably sturdy but all to often the extremely well drained environment in which it exists, coupled with a dry year, create conditions that lead to stunted and wind burnt specimens that look extremely poorly.  Photos 6 and 7 depict such a plant.

 Perhaps the most  characteristic feature of var. cambrensis is the length of the ovaries which are long and narrow and quite unlike either var. pendula or var. vectensis which grow within the same dune system, albeit (usually) in shadier sites. Our thanks go to Les Lewis and Mike Clarke for their invaluable help with this page and to Mike in particularfor his tireless work towards the conservation of this small orchid. these pictures date from the beginning of August.