ORCHIDS OF EUROPE
WHAT ARE HYBRIDS ?
A species is a species, when it is able to reproduce itself and do not make hybrids with other species (Isolation of reproduction). Normally during evolution the species got more and more isolated from each other, so the different genotype prevents hybridization. Therefore it is not possible to intercross a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) with a daisy (Bellis perennis).
But orchids are an evolutionary very young family. A lot of orchid species, in some cases even races are so familiar in genotype, that natural or artificial crossings are possible. The result can be seeds, which can grow up to hybrids. So most of the orchids you can buy in flower shops are hybrids, created and reproduced by humans. In nature, hybrids are much more rare and, in most cases sterile and not able to reproduce themselves. But in some special cases also fertile hybrids can occur. When such fertile hybrids find a suited habitat, they can build growing populations during the years. So, some authors say, that a new species is born.
This shows, how difficult it is to determine wild orchids. Good examples are Ophrys bertolonii / bertoloniformis or Ophrys archipelagi. By the way this is the reason, why in some orchid books an orchid is named as species, in others by comparison as subspecies or only as a local variation. Just in the last few years a lot of new species have been described. We will not comment on, if this is correct and helpful. In any case only extensive studies can show if it is really a species or not.
Some natural hybrids are not very variable, so they are easy to determine. For example please see the hybrids between Aceras anthropophorum and species of the race Orchis. Others by comparison normally are very difficult to determine exactly, especially in the case, when the parents resemble each other morphologically or if one of the parents itself is variable. Often one of the parents is easy to determine, but the question is: Where is the other one? To crown all, orchid seeds are incredibly light, so they can be transported dozens of miles by the wind. So it is possible, that around the place, where a hybrid is found, one of the parents or even both parents does not exist. On the other side it is not automatically legitimate to determine a hybrid by the fact, that two possible parents are growing beside the hybrid.
Moreover in most cases the morphological features of the hybrid is not exactly between the features of the two parents. In dependence on the distribution of the chromosomes the hybrid sometimes resembles more the one parent, sometimes more the other. For a good example look at the dozen of hybrids between Ophrys holoserica and Ophrys insectifera So you will see the enormous variability of such a combination. Still the results of this combinations are easy to determine. Because of the variability of orchid hybrids, mostly we present you more than one hybrid of each combination shown in this work.
Some very critical hybrids we want to discuss with you in our heading „Which hybrid is it?". Perhaps you know, what we have found outdoors. In any case you should not recognize an hybrid in every morphological peculiarity. Only with great experience it is possible to determine most of the hybrids exactly. Nearly every combination within a race is possible. This is the reason, why searching orchid hybrids is so fascinating. By the way we did not named the hybrids, although it would be possible. But we think this is not necessary and makes more confusion. For the naming see DELFORGE (1994), BUTTLER (1986) and / or SUNDERMANN (1980).
Basically we have to make difference between species hybrids and hybrids between races. The former, that means hybrids between species of the same race (Orchis for example) are relatively more frequent than hybrids between species of different races. Especially within the race Ophrys, Orchis and Dactylorhiza some species with greater tendency to hybridization can be found. Examples are Ophrys tenthredinifera and Ophrys bombyliflora. Concerning the hybrids between species of different races the combination of Aceras anthropophorum and species of the race Orchis are relatively frequent, but absolutely very rare. Do not have a wrong impression: You can’t find orchid hybrids immediately on every orchid meadow or in every forest. For this you need time, experience and a sharp eye. Often you are not successful. But sometimes, and normally when you does not expect it at all, you will find something very beautiful.
Let us draw attention to an important subject. Some „orchid lovers" stop at nothing. Again and again you can find places outdoors, where orchids has been dig out. Normally it should not be necessary to tell, but such actions are to condemn strictly. Not without reason orchid species are protected by law in many countries. Also taking pictures could impair orchids and other plants and animals. So you have to do this with great care. To avoid abuse, we do not name the exact position of the hybrids shown in this website.