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Gymnadenia minor

This species was first described by Foelsche and Zernig from the Styrian Alps of Austria in 2007 and its name refers to the small size of the inflorescence. It is an apomictic species and a member of the growing G. nigra group of the genus Gymnadenia. It is also widely known by the synonym G. miniata v minor, a very fitting name as the plant does indeed resemble a small version of G. miniata (previously known as G. rubra).

This orchid is currently thought to be endemic to the Trenchtling Massif, a large area of alpine grassland that shelters under the bulk of the Hochturn mountain in the Alps of central Austria. It is found at altitudes of between 1800 and 2000 metres in very low numbers within small loose colonies which can often be difficult to locate. Insufficient study has yet been undertaken to categorically confirm that G. minor is restricted to this region and the taxon should definitely be sought elsewhere.

It is a species that due to its size is unlikely to be confused with another Vanilla orchid. There is however another significant characteristic which serves to differentiate it and this is its vivid colouration, the inflorescence being an intense magenta which sits above a stem that is usually a very pale green with only limited, sometimes no red lining to the bract edges or stalk. The final three pictures depict G. austriaca which were growing less than half a metre away from the G. miniata and which clearly portray a colouration that mirrors the vivid magenta of its rarer neighbour. Similarly coloured G. austriaca could not be found anywhere else in the vicinity. Coincidence ?

The pictures are from the Trenchtling and date from the 18th of July.