In search of Hvar’s wild orchids

Updated: March 2020

We’ve been enjoying the springtime sight of Hvar’s wild flowers for many years now. I’ve taken lots of photos, diligently looked up their names and created flower guides (Spring, Summer, Winter) to keep track of what we’ve learned. But until recently, I’d never seen any wild orchids on our wanderings. They are quite seasonal, so you have to be on the lookout in April and May, and know what you’re looking for. So the first few orchids had to be pointed out to me, after which I got the idea, and started to look more carefully. It’s amazing how many of these delicate flowers are there among the greenery, just waiting to be seen!

The above photos are courtesy of Vivian Grisogono of Eco Hvar. So here we have the first of our guide to wild orchids on Hvar, to be expanded as and when the opportunity arises.

Anacamptis Coriophora, bug orchid
Double-stemmed plant, seen on the way up to Maslinovik tower. Used to be classified as Orchis coriophora ssp fragrans.

Anacamptis Morio, previously classified as Orchis Morio, Green-winged orchid.
Also known as Orchis Picta. Seen near Dol. Single plant, which is quite unusual, apparently, as elsewhere in Dalmatia they appear in clusters.

Anacamptis morio / picta

Anacamptis morio / Orchis morio

Limodorum Abortivum – Violet bird’s-nest orchid (Croatian: Ljubičasti Šiljorep)
Single plant, seen on the Vrbanj to Dol path.

Ophrys Liburnia (also called Ophrys sphegodes) – Early spider orchid
An early orchid, first appearing in March when others are still only leaf rosettes. These examples seen near Dol and Vrboska.

Ophrys Rhodostephane – Pink-crowned orchid
Seen near Vrbanj. Lots of them, and look at the variations of the patterns on the flowers!
This species is limited to central Dalmatia (including the larger offshore islands) down to north Montenegro. It’s rare except on Hvar, where it comes into contact with the similar O. Pharia.

Orchis Anthropophora man orchid
A couple of plants seen high up on the path from Pitve over to Zavala. The flower isn’t quite out fully, so the wee hanging men are missing, otherwise they’re very distinctive. Not to be confused with the naked men, below!

Orchis Anthropophora, 23-5-2019, Pitve

Orchis Anthropophora, 23-5-2019, Pitve

Orchis Italica (maybe) Italian orchid or Naked man orchid
Seen on the path near Dol. The flower is very like naked men (sorry about the slightly blurry photo) and the leaves are distinctively wavy along the edges.

Orchis Quadripunctata. four-spotted orchid
Seen near Vrbanj, and several plants in a field near Pitve.

Serapias Parviflora, small-flowered tongue orchid
Seen near Pitve, 3 plants.

Many thanks to Vivian Grisogono of Eco Hvar for taking us orchid hunting, and Frank Verhart of the Netherlands for his expertise. Both of whom have been extremely helpful as they know far more about orchids than I will ever know!

Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some useful references on European orchids and the folks who seek them:

Eco Hvar article: Orchids – Dalmatia’s Secret Treasure

John and Gerry’s Orchids of Britain and Europe

Frank Verhart’s Orchid Observations in Croatia 2016 and European Orchids Photographed

Mental Floss blog – The Dangerous and Highly Competitive World of Victorian Orchid Hunting
On the fascinating subject of Orchidelirium  when orchid collecting was a serious business! “…many orchid hunters met a grisly end. For example, in 1901 an expedition of eight men entered the jungles of the Philippines in search of orchids: one was eaten by a tiger, a second was doused in oil and burnt to death, and five more were never seen again.” Yikes!