By Frank Verhart © 2003
During spring 2002 I had the opportunity to reside in the north-east
of Poland, in the village of Bialowieza, situated in the province
of Podlaskie. The village is surrounded by the Bialowieza Primeval
Forest - or Puszcza Bialowieska in Polish - known for its
ancience and its richness in natural values. Orchids are presented
by 15 species nowadays. I stayed in Bialowieza for 11 weeks; the stay
included the flowering period of most of the orchids.
Besides the Bialowieza forest I also looked for orchids in other areas
of north-eastern Poland, among which the Rospuda river-valley
near Augustow. This area is a home for 20 species of orchids,
which is 40% of all Polish orchid species, but in spite of that any
protection of the area is still absent. A very delicate fact is that
the highway "Via Baltica" is planned to devide the Rospuda-valley
in two parts, while the road will be situated very close to the only
population in Poland of Herminium monorchis, which is a vulnerable
and rare species accross Europe.
A visit was paid also to the forest and channel of Augustow, the Wigierski
National Park and the Suwalki Landscape Park.
Besides the north-east of Poland I visited the majestic Tatra mountain
range in the far south of Poland - protected as the Tatra National
I wrote an article about my observations titled "An orchid season
in the Bialowieza Primeval Forest, Poland" in Dutch. The article
is for download in three parts:
in Dutch, English, German and Polish - 42
- Complete text
including summaries - 169 Kb
- figures and illustrations - 1883 Kb
alpina is the smallest orchid in Europe,
limited to alpine climate in high-mountains, is extremely rare
in Poland and grows only in the Tatra. It is easily overlooked,
but I was able to locate a few populations on Czerwone Wierch.
The photo shows a very concentrated group of about ten inflorescences.
rubra was seen several times in Bialowieza
forest, where it is known to be a less rare orchid. However,
in most other areas of Poland the plant is nowadays rather rare.
On the photo Cephalanthera rubra (right) is accompanied
by Lathyrus niger, one of a number of Lathyrus species
helleborine is one of the common orchids
in Bialowieza forest, where it typically grows besides sandy roads
that are in use for inspection and exploitation of the forest.
On some places populations are spread beside such roads for a
length of hundreds of meters. The photo shows a monstruos plant
that has a forked stem with two inflorescences. This is a very
rare, but natural phenomenon.
This orchid was seen by me also in the Rospuda-valley and in the
fuchsii is a common orchid in the Bialowieza
forest. It grows in many forest types, as long as some water is
available; it is not present in dry spruce-pine forest. Typically
it has pink flowers, like many orchids from Dactylorhiza.
The plant on the photo shows the albino form, which was observed
one time beside an asphalted road near the village of Bialowieza.
Dactylorhiza fuchsii could also be found in the Rospuda-valley,
the Augustow forest and frequently in the Tatras.
incarnata was not found very often, but
the number of plants was rather high. It was mainly seen in the
most wet areas of the agricultural land around the village of
Bialowieza, which are not or only sometimes mown by local farmers.
The photo shows some plants in their habitat.
In the Rospuda-valley it is one of the most commonly spotted orchids,
where it grows in highmoor vegetation with other, often very rare
majalis is a common species in agricultural
areas near Bialowieza. It was seen frequently south of the town
of Hajnowka, for example. The plant grows on many places in agricultural
fields in great numbers, thanks to the lack of use of pesticides.
Without doubt the plant is common in a bigger area in Northeastern-Poland
The photo was made south of Hajnowka.
ochroleuca is a rare plant in the Rospuda-valley.
The plant is in many ways the same as Dactylorhiza incarnata.
A very clear difference is the colour of the flowers - they are
whitish yellow instead of pink. In Poland as a whole this orchid
is rare; some other localities are in the marshes of Biebrza.
found two plants of Dactylorhiza traunsteinerii
s.l. in the Rospuda-valley. The plants had
very narrow and long leaves with small dots on the top. The plants
showed a rather small number of pale purple flowers. The plants
looked like Dactylorhiza russowi, however my knowledge
of this species is very limited and the species was not recorded
before from the area.
incarnata x majalis is a hybrid which was
spotted on one site near Bialowieza. It was not surprising to
me to find this natural hybrid as both parent species are not
very rare locally and do for some time flower at the same time.
The plants had big dimensions. In many aspects the hybrid showed
the intermediate character which is usual in orchid hybrids.
cordata is most common in so called boreal
regions of Europe; this includes Scandinvia, but the climate of
Northeastern Poland is also boreal. The plant was spotted on one
place in Bialowieza forest and in the Rospuda-valley. In both
areas the plant is rather rare. Besides that it is rather difficult
to find, because its leaves are just a few centimeters big.
monophyllos is a rare red list species in
the whole of Poland. However, in the Northeast it is still present
on a number of places including the Rospuda-valley were I spotted
the first two plants I ever saw. In the Tatra mountains the plant
was seen on two more places in bigger numbers.
The photo was made in the Tatras and shows the top of a plant
with twice as many flowers as is usual in this species.
nidus-avis is one of the common orchids in
Bialowieza Forest. The plant usually grows beside sandy roads
which are in use for forest-exploitation. Most often it was seen
in old forests-patches with linden, oak and hornbeam.
The photo shows an unusual variety which lacks any chlorophil!
Such plants are called chlorotic.
bifolia was not found in the Bialowieza
forest, although it should not be a rare orchid. It was found
once near Bialowieza in a young beech forest. Under a plantation
of poplars the plant is growing by thousands, however, and these
plants are monitored by Warsaw University.
These photos were made at the poplar plantation. The picture on
the right shows a plant lacking any flowers, while all bracts
the period of flowering of Platanthera bifolia the orchid
is one of the main aspects in the vegetation under the plantation.
Beside orchids the alien plant Lupinus is clearly visible.