|John and Gerry's Orchids of Britain and Europe|
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This is a member of the N. tridentata group which has recently been reclassified from genus Orchis into the Neotinea genus. It was first described from Sicily in 1842 and its name literally means "changed".
Its range is similar to that of N. tridentata though less extensive. Because of its marked resemblance to that species its exact distribution is not fully understood although it is known to get no further east than Anatolia. What is known with certainty however is that wherever you can find N. commutata you will also find N. tridentata and so the scope for confusion is apparent.
Despite the physical similarities of the two species they are not in fact genetically close, N. tridentata being diploid (2 sets of chromosomes) and N. commutata autotetraploid (4 sets) and its for this reason that where the two species meet, they do not hybridize and create intermediates.
The main visual differences in the species are :- 1. The sepals forming the hood are distinctly seperated in commutata whereas they virtually touch in tridentata. 2. The margins of the lobes are ragged and saw-toothed in the former. 3. The flower head is taller and more conical than the somewhat flat topped shape of tridentata. Picture 6 is N. tridentata and is included for comparison purposes.
The pictures here are all from Sicily where this species seems to flower a shade earlier than its cousin N.tridentata. These illustrations date from the second week of April and as can be seen the plants were in full flower (many were if fact finishing by this time).
The following three pictures are also from Sicily and depict plants that dont fit easily into the N. commutata description and are clearly niether N. lactea or N. conica. Your thought's would be welcome ?