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Gymnadenia bicolor

This species was first formally described by Foelsche and Gerbaud in 2011 having previously been well known to botany as simply an attractive colour morph of G. miniata an orchid which at that time (as G. rubra) was thought to be a far more widespread species in the Alps.

Some botanists and Wolfram Foelsche in particular studied G. rubra very closely and concluded that the dual coloured forms should be separated out as a distinct species, a view with which some of his contemporaries and the authors disagree, preferring to regard G. bicolor as commonly occurring colour morphs of both G. dolomitensis in Italy and of G. miniata in Austria and the Carpathians.

Current thinking views G. bicolor as far more widespread than G. miniata and in its typical form is easily distinguished by the dark red crown which shades down to a light pink at the bottom of the inflorescence. As can be seen from the illustrations however, the degree of shading is variable and some plants appear almost entirely pink whilst others reveal only a minimal amount of lighter colouration. A further complication arises with related species such as G. dolomitensis, G. miniata and G. hygrophila all of which can exhibit a degree of natural colour zonation as well as fading of the bottom flowers with age. Whilst these three species can be distinguished by other characteristics there is no doubt that the scope for misidentification of G. bicolor is considerable and perhaps inevitable.

G. bicolor is absent from France but otherwise is present in all the Alpine countries as far as the Carpathians. It prefers a full sun position on calcareous substrates and tolerates a wide range of altitudes from as little as 1200 metres up to 2600. The photographs date from the first two weeks of July.