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The orchids of Gargano
Die Orchideen


Orchid: a magical word that conjures up vast tropical forests and luxuriant vegetation that jealously conserves secrets of a Mother Nature who still has secrets withheld. The world of these extraordinary flowers is here, in the Gargano peninsula. Orchids – undisputed “queens” of the flower kingdom – are perennial herbaceous plants of which there are about 800 genuses and over 20,000 species. The orchidaceae family grows worldwide and is second in size among the angiosperms. Orchids are divided mainly into climbing epiphytes, which are found in tree tops mainly in equatorial zones, and geophytes, or terrestrial orchids, which have their roots in soil in Europe. The name Orchis was given in the 4th century B.C. by the Greek Theophrastes, who was perhaps influenced by the rounded form of the two testicle-like “tubers” that form the structure of some species. Flowers can vary in size from 2 or 3 centimetres up to 7. They are made up of six tepals, three of which are external, and called sepals, while the remaining three internal ones are called petals. The central lower of these is the large labellum or lip, which can change colour and shape according to the insect that pollinates it. In some genuses, it is had a structure that can contain nectar. Orchid generally give out a lovely scent, although some are completely odourless while others give off a smell. The orchids belonging to the Ophrys genus have flowers which are single, curious and mysterious – a meeting point between the worlds of insects and plants. In Europe, about 500 orchids species grow, belonging to 31 different genuses. Italy is particulary rich in wild orchids, with about 284 species grouped into 29 different genuses. Special mention however goes to the Gargano peninsula, as it has 92 species belonging to 16 genuses. Such a density puts this zone among the highest in Europe and, indeed, the Mediterranean as a whole. Some orchids are common, others rare; others again are to be found here and in few other sites, and are practically endemic, such as the Epipactis meridionalis, Ophrys apulica, O. exaltata subsp. archipelagi, O. bertolonii subsp. bertoloniiformis, O. crabronifera subsp. biscutella, O. mattinatae, O. oestrifera subsp. montis-gargani, O. passionis, O. lojaconoi, O. parvimaculata, O. promontorii, O. sipontensis, Orchis quadripunctata e Serapias orientalis subsp. apulica. With their stunning range of colours, these special flowers, which adorn our woods and grace our hills and meadows, have always attracted interest and study by botanists the world over. The wild orchids of the Gargano, which are unique among the treasures of our wild flora, can be seen here as witnesses to a heritage that Nature renews every year since the dawn of time. A difficult flower: precious and ephemeral, like all things beautiful. We learn to know, love and respect her. Only in this way can we witness the beauty of these entrancing blooms every year. A beauty that will continue to grace our lives from the leafy recesses of the grass and glades.
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