John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Gymnadenia corneliana

This species was first described as Nigratella nigra ssp corneliana by Beauverd from the Alpes du Lauteret, France in 1925 and named in honour of the Swiss botanist Rudio Cornelia. It was subsequently reclassified as a full species and conferred the binomial name, G. corneliana within the G. nigra group of the genus Gymnadenia.

This is arguably the most handsome of all the Vanilla Orchids and one of only five that reproduces sexually. It is confined to the western Alps, where although local, can form huge colonies containing hundreds of plants. G. corneliana is at its most frequent in the south east of France from the Chartreuse Mountains north of Grenoble eastwards to the border and into western Italy where it becomes much less common. It typically exhibits an elongated hemispherical inflorescence of medium sized flowers which are light pink at the bottom of the flower head but darken to a vivid red at the top.
The perianth is connivent, forming an open central tube into which can be seen the pale coloured reproductive organs. G. corneliana can be diverse and two variations have been formally described, a predominantly pure white form, vesubiana and a uniformly dark red variety which has been named bourneriasii.

G. corneliana
is a typical Vanilla Orchid growing in full sun on alpine grassland at altitudes of between 1500 and 2500 metres. Identification is unlikely to present any difficulties as it is commonly only found growing alongside G. rhellicani and G. austriaca v gallica, both of which are considerably darker in appearance and easily distinguished. The pictures are from the Col du Galibier and Col de la Croix de Fer to the east of Grenoble, dating from the first weeks of July.