Intro I Orchids info I Reports of '97 '98 '99 '00 '01&'02 I Images of Dactylorhiza Epipactis Ophrys Orchis Other genera Hybrids

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 Park.

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:
- Summary  in Dutch, English, German and Polish  -  42 Kb
- Complete text  including summaries  -  169 Kb
- Supplement - figures and illustrations  -  1883 Kb


Chamorchis 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.

Cephalanthera 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 from Bialowieza.

Epipactis 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 Tatras.
Dactylorhiza 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.
Dactylorhiza 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 orchid species.
Dactylorhiza 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.
Dactylorhiza 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.
I 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.
Dactylorhiza 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.
Listera 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.
Malaxis 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.
Neottia 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.
Platanthera 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 are present!
During 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.


(c) Frank Verhart - Last update: 19 feb. 2003
Intro I Orchids info I Reports of '97 '98 '99 '00 '01&'02 I Images of Dactylorhiza Epipactis Ophrys Orchis Other genera Hybrids