Tuesday, 10 June 2008

X Dactyloglossum mixtum

The British summer has finally arrived, which means my flat is hot. Really hot. Too hot to look down a microscope without everything steaming up. As a result all ant work has had to cease until it cools down1.

I thought that in the meantime I might present some photographs of other things. I have an online gallery that I kept running for about 3 years and then neglected, so I'm letting the subscription run out. The photos, including some interesting ones, will go with it, so I think it will be nice to save some of them by publishing them here.

X Dactyloglossum mixtum is the hybrid between frog orchid Coeloglossum viride and common spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii. Other images can be found at the UK Hardy Orchid Society's website.

The parent species are both fairly common in the UK and their habitats overlap, so X Dactyloglossum mixtum is widespread, but uncommon and rarely found. This specimen was found near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire in 2004 and was only the fifth record for the county. However, the really interesting thing is that the last time it was recorded in Gloucestershire was on the same site in 1966, so it's easy to speculate that this could be a very old plant.

I've looked for this plant subsequently in the same place, but have not found it since. It is likely that, like most orchids, X Dactyloglossum mixtum flowers only sporadically.

Incidentally, recent work by Professor Richard Bateman and colleagues on a phylogeny of orchids based on DNA has shown that Coeloglossum viride is actually a Dactylorhiza. This means that a new combination needs to be published for the hybrid, which should make it Dactylorhiza x mixta.

I should acknowledge Simon Harrap for originally suggesting the identity, and Mark and Clare Kitchen, BSBI Vice County Recorders for Gloucestershire, for verifying the specimen.

1 Like most British properties, my flat does not have air conditioning. What it does have is a very large south-facing window.

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