John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Serapias vomeracea


This is one of the commoner members of a relatively small genus whose name refers to the ploughshare shape of its lip. S. vomeracea was first described from Verona (Italy) in 1770, thus making it the second of the Serapias genera to be formally identified, S. cordigera being the first.
S. vomeracea is easily the largest of the genera and on occasion can reach a height of 60cms, with up to 12 individual flowers arranged along a lax inflorescence, colour varying from yellow/orange to deep mahogany red.  

It has a wide distribution ranging from the lower Alps of Switzerland down to the Mediterranean and Cyprus in the east, where although it can be abundant, occurs in lesser concentrations than its close relative S. bergonii, which can form vast drifts in its favoured locations. There is a substantial overlap of range between these two species and they frequently grow in close association, hybridisation is widespread and identification can often be difficult. In genetically pure populations, identification can be reasonably straightforward, S. vomeracea being larger flowered, more robust and importantly with bracts that are significantly longer than the hood. It is this latter feature which gives the species a distinctive appearance where, especially in younger plants, the upward thrusting bract formation is reminiscent of church spires rising over a city skyline.

Unfortunately identification is seldom straightforward and interbreeding with S. bergonii and indeed other Serapias species has in many places produced large hybrid swarms of indeterminate parentage. An eminent botanist specializing in the flora of Crete declared that in his view there were no pure S. vomeracea populations on the island and it's highly likely that this situation is not restricted to Crete.







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