I would make the worst orchid tour guide (but I can talk about snakes…)

Before returning home from our trip to the Chiemgauer Alpen, we decided to take a short walk in the Achental, from Marquartstein to a viewpoint called Windeck (probably because it is always windy as fuck – which it was today). The hike was short enough for our son to almost walk all of it two ways, but still had enough elevation to make it sort of interesting. There was also plenty to see on the way up. My wife and her brother did not see anything, as they left me behind while I was flat on my belly taking pictures of orchids, but I saw plenty of, well, you probably guessed it – orchids.

Orchids are pretty, but they are also difficult (at least for me) to identify. Apparently many species hybridize quite easily, which is probably not making it easier. I should get myself a good orchid book. (I should anyway get a couple more books on other plant families as well.)

A couple of orchids I am pretty certain of. For instance, I found plenty of common twayblade (Neottia ovata), although all of them were senescing. They are hard to mix up, rather common, and not the prettiest orchids anyway. A much better candidate for the prettiest orchid award is the red helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra), a species I had never seen before, but grew here quite abundantly (I saw more than a dozen along the path, and there must have been more). There were also plenty of Orchis-looking chaps. Or are they Dactylorrhiza or Gymnadenia sp.? I don’t even know what to look for. Some species vary tremendously in their flower markings or leaf blotching. From none to heavily marked/blotched. That also doesn’t make things easier. Yes, I should get a book! Lastly, I found plenty of orchids that were already past the flowering stage (or not quite there yet). God knows what these are. For sure it should be worth visiting this place more often.

I ended the hike with a grass snake (Natrix natrix) emptying its anal glands on me, which is by now becoming a ritual. I still smell like sewer. Doesn’t matter. A day that includes a snake is always a good day.

Cephalanthera rubra
Cephalanthera rubra
Cephalanthera rubra
My wild guess is that the following bunch of pretty ones are Orchis mascula, or Dactylorrhiza fuchsii – but I wouldn’t put money on it.
Pink without markings. No clue.
Yeah – no clue…
I’m not fully sure. The huge leaves and venation make me think that these could be lady’s slippers (Cypripedium calceolus), but I could be completely off. They should occur here. Whatever it is, it probably looked much prettier about 3-4 weeks ago…
Another one that has seen prettier days.
Common tweyblade (Neottia ovata) – the least senescant of the fifty or so I saw.
Quite a few of these. Could it be these are just more Cephalanthera rubra? They still need some time – I think.
They look quite sad with their hanging heads…
Many of these were growing right behind the bench at the Windeck viewpoint.
A grass snake (Natrix natrix) of course beats any orchid!

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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