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Vol. 13(8), pp. 3-12The McAllen International Orchid Society JournalAugust 2012

The Native Orchids of Europe -- Observations and Reflections : Part I - The Geographical Delineation of Europe

Fred Campbell

Fig. 1. The Continent of Europe, & its native orchids.

Fig. 1a. Dactylorhiza maculata.

Fig. 2. The continent of Europe in relation to others of the World.

In terms of square miles or square kilometers, Europe is smaller than the other world's continents. As well, if one considers continents in terms of the number of orchid species and hybrids they house, Europe still houses fewer than most even though it lays claim to thirty two genera, twenty two hybrid genera, and no fewer than 875 different species accepted by the authorities at the Royal Garden at Kew. However, to put all such numbers into a proper perspective, we must clearly define what we mean -- politically and geographically -- by "Europe" and the countries that make up for it, and we who are botanists, the important botanical countries and regions (Fig. 1) (Fig. 1a) (Fig. 2).

Geographic Delineations

Fig. 3. Political map of the countries of Europe.

Europe is the planet's fifth largest of the six major continents after Asia, the Americas, Africa, and Antarctica. Europe's recognized surface area covers about 9,938,000 square kilometers (3,837,83 square miles), or 2% of the Earth's surface area, and about 6.8% of its land area. In exacting definitions, Europe is not really a continent, but part of the peninsula of Euro-Asia, which includes all of Europe and Asia. However, it is still widely referred to as an individual continent (Fig. 3).

The coordinates of true mainland Europe are defined as follows: to the north, the North Cape of Norway at 71°10'N., to the east, the Ural mountain range at approximately 60° E.; to the south, Gibraltar (36°8'N.), and to the west, Portugal, at 8° W. These boundaries are extended by the presence of islands, i.e. to the west. The Macaronesian (Atlantic) islands, the nine islands of the Azores at 25°40'W, 1,300 kilometers west of Portugal as well as Madeira at 16°16'W, (300 kms off the African coast), and the nearby Canary Islands at 15°4'W. as well as the Cape Verde Islands 635 kms off the African coast (Dakar, Senegal) at 14°55'N, 23°31'W (and 4,732 kilometers south of the Canary Islands); to the north: Svalbard at 78°13'N, Novaja Semlja at 74°N., and Jan Mayen at 70°59'N; to the south by the islands of Malta, Cyprus, and Crete,. all at around 35°N. (the southernmost point is the island of Gavdos, just south of Crete at 34°50".

The European continent is bordered by numerous bodies of water, and separated from Asia by Russia's Ural mountains and the Caspian and Black Seas. It is separated from Africa by the Mediterranean Sea. The boundaries are however quite clearly defined. To the west is the country of Iceland, and the Azores, Madeira, Canary, and Cape Verde islands. To the south is the northern Mediterranean coast and the Mediterranean islands, the Balearic Islands, Corsica/Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, Crete, the East Aegean Islands, and Cyprus. The western boundaries are the Ural Mountains and the Ural River to the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus mountain range, and the Eastern part of Turkey, i.e. to the west of Istanbul and the western shore of the Turkish Straits (Bosporus & the Dardanelles). The northern boundary is the Arctic region.

Political Considerations

All in all there are between 50 and 60 recognized countries which include assorted dependencies, islands and territories that make up Europe and, in principle, reflect the present administrative borders of Europe, namely the 27 member states of EU, the four EFTA countries; Iceland, Switzerland, Norway and Liechtenstein; and the "Lilliputian" countries of Monaco, Andorra, San Marino, Vatican City and Gibraltar. Added thereto are the Balkan countries of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Albania (and Kosovo). To the east are the countries of Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldavia, and -- of course -- Russia (European) which includes the enclave of Kaliningrad. In fact, European Russia represents 40% of the total area of Europe, and. European Turkey (Eastern Thrace i.e. west of the European part of Istanbul, which only represents 3% of the total land area of Turkey) as well as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

In this context it would be of interest to mention another institution, "The Council of Europe", which is made up of 46 member states (including Turkey, Armenia, Moldavia, Georgia and Azerbaijan). Belarus is a non-member state and the Holy See (Vatican City) has observer status. The only "independent" European countries "missing" or not mentioned are Cape Verde, Gibraltar and Kosovo.

It can also be mentioned that it has been far too convenient for many to even include the southern and eastern Mediterranean rim countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Egypt as well as Israel and other Middle East countries and Turkey (Asia Minor). Often countries such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are also thrown in for good measures. Many botanists and writers of orchid books often include these countries outside the "geographical" Europe which of course boosts, in turn, their particular total of the number of European orchids.

In recent years, not least within EU, much attention has been put on, not only the Sovereign states but also States with limited recognition such as Kosovo and Northern Cyprus, Dependencies and other territories and regions to even include individual districts and even counties including islands. It is therefore of interest to note in regards to islands that apart from the major islands of the Sovereign States such as UK, Ireland, Malta, Cyprus and Cape Verde there are other islands etc. that "belong" to other European countries, for example:

It is particularly important to take into consideration these areas when we employ the internet to study the distribution of native orchids of Europe in the various publications, lists, etc.

The Climate Zones of Europe

Fig. 4. tundra (light grey-green), alpine tundra (grey), taiga (dark green), montane forest (bluish green), temperate broadleaf forest (light green), mediterranean forest (lavender), temperate steppe (yellow), dry steppe (brown).

Having defined the territory of Europe, the other major deciding factors (at least regarding native orchids) are the climate zones of Europe. The other continents do not show such a diversity of climate zones as does Europe, which ranges from harsh Arctic tundra climates to the dry (and in many cases "desert-like" sandy) Mediterranean zone. There are no tropical or sub-tropical climate zones unless one regards the moist humid climates on the Macaronesian volcanic islands of Madeira, Canary Islands, Cape Verde and the Azores (Fig. 4).

Fig. 5. Floristic regions of Europe & neighbouring areas (per Wolfgang Frey and Rainer Lösch).

To summarise the various interpretations and presentations of the Climate of Europe, the various figures below show five basic and main distinct climate zones (from north to south); Arctic (tundra), Boreal, Temperate (Atlantic and Central European), Sub Mediterranean and Mediterranean (Fig. 5).

Certain factors play an important role in these micro-climates. One good example is in Norway which, mainly thanks to the warm Gulf Stream that "strokes" the coastal areas and which allows ice-free ports e.g. Narvik, open all the year round, allowing "extensions" of normal distribution areas of some species such as Ophrys insectifera even into above the Arctic Circle (at 66.5°N.)). Within the northern part of the Boreal zone of Scandinavia, which often have short summers and otherwise harsh climate conditions, are to be found no less than 22 orchid species.

Fig. 6. Vegetation zones in Sweden.

Almost every country has its own vegetation zones, which can be important for gardeners wishing to know what plants can grow within certain zones. Sweden has, for example, nine zones (Fig. 6) from the mountain, almost sub arctic down to the temperate zone in the very south, where I live, and south east, including the important orchid islands of Gotland and Öland (both of which have almost a warm micro-climate. It is no coincidence that these areas in the south are the richest orchid region when there are sedimentary layers of chalk/calcareous - sand that favours the occurrence of orchids. No less than 44 of a total 71 of the Sweden's orchids are to be found here and, in fact, 13 of them are only found here, for example Orchis spitzelii, Anacamptis laxiflora, Anacamptis palustris, and Cephalanthera damasonium. 4 are endemic to the island of Gotland. Those "missing" are for example the 6 boreal species; Calypso bulbosa, Chamorchis alpina, Dactylorhiza lapponica, Gymnadenia nigra, and the endemic Gymnadenia runei, as well as Platanthera obtusata and its subspecies Platanthera obtusata subsp. oligantha.

Fig. 7. Hardiness zones: Britain & Ireland.

Another example of hardiness zones are those of Britain & Ireland (Fig. 7). Owing to the moderating effect of the Gulf Stream on the Irish and British temperate maritime climate, Britain, and Ireland even moreso, have milder winters than their northerly position would otherwise permit. This means that the hardiness zones relevant to Britain and Ireland are quite high, from 7 to 10. Specific information relative to each zone follows:

Fig. 8. Physical topography map of Europe.

It is also worth mentioning the important mountainous Alpine regions in the Temperate and Boreal zones: Pyrenees, The Western & Eastern Alps (France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany); The Pennine Mountains, Grampian Highlands and Welsh Mountains (UK); Carpathian Mountains & Tatra mountain range (Poland & Slovakia); the Apennine Mountains and the Dolomites (Italy); the Scandinavian Mountains of northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland); the Caucasus Mountain Range of S. Russia & Georgia; and the Ural Mountains (Fig. 8). Many orchid species are concentrated to these areas such as the 14 Gymnadenia (previously Nigritella) species and Platanthera obtusata, Chamorchis alpine, Pseudorchis albida to mention just a few.

Fig. 9. Geological map of Western Europe.

Fig. 10. Land use in Europe. Note: Yellow: cropland and arable; light green: grassland and pasture; dark green: forest; light brown: tundra or bogs; unshaded areas (including towns and cities): other. The underlying map is a terrain map.

Another governing factor apart from general type of habitat is the geology, where areas of particular "help" to the presence of orchids are the limestone areas (Fig. 9). Habitat of course also plays an important role such as forests (coniferous, mixed & broadleaved - deciduous), marsh & wetlands, open grasslands & plains, cultivated and grazed areas etc. which govern the occurrence of and widespread of many specific orchid species (Fig. 10).

Terminology Concerning The Native Orchids of Europe

In "The World's Checklist of Selected Plant Families", Dec 2010, is taken up all the accepted and recognised species, subspecies, varies and hybrids of respective genera. Thus I have consequently used the "World's list of Accepted Species" as my "bible". This is in itself a challenge and creates a possible conflict between many European botanists, in particular the German, Scandinavian and some British but it limits me from the inflation of the number of, for example, the Ophrys species in number as well as with regard to other genera, e.g. Epipactis, Dactylorhiza and Orchis. For example, it seems to be matters of prestige and sport amongst the Brits to have their "own" endemic species of for example the genera Dactylorhiza and Epipactis. The same applies to Sardinia, Corsica, Italy and Greece especially in regards to the Ophrys and Orchis, where individuals seem desperate to have "their own" endemic species.

One problem is the apparent persistence to continue to refer to and write about genera that no longer are applicable such as Coeloglossum, i.e. ones now removed and incorporated to Dactylorhiza, and Nigritella now to Gymnadenia; Listera now to Neottia; Barlia & Comperia now under Himantoglossum; and some of the Orchis species such as O. morio, O. boryi, O. laxiflora and O. papilionacea which are now under the banner of Anacamptis and O. ustulata to Neotinea. These examples of obsolete terminology are still included in reasonably recent literature and even, for example, in EU documentation. Many individuals also still use synonyms such as Ophrys holoserica instead of the accepted name Ophrys fuciflora.

Designation of Countries

Fig. 11. Country designations according to the Flora Europea system.

Fig. 12. Country designations according to the TDWG Country Codes.

Where country abbreviations and designations are used in literature, it would appear that there are two basic systems: one following the Flora Europaea system (as applied by P. Delforge in "Orchids of Britain & Europe" (Fig. 11); and the other according to the TDWG country code system (Fig. 12) which is applicable in The World's Checklist of Selected Plant Families". I have applied and taken distribution reports from both, namely that P. Delforge also gives reports from Luxemburg and Malta which are omitted in the TDWG system.

I can't resist commenting on these systems. Both are good but each is lacking in certain aspects. The good points are that they often combine smaller countries with their larger neighbours such as; Northern Ireland (UK) with Ireland, The Channel Islands (UK) and Monaco with France, Gibraltar (UK) and Andorra with Spain, Lichtenstein with Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia as Czechoslovakia, San Marino and Vatican City with Italy, the three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Kaliningrad as the Baltic States and all the Balkan states as (former) Yugoslavia. The TDWG system is in a way to be preferred since it splits up all of Russia (1990 borders) to the five regions of Russia (N, E, C, W & S), Ukraine (and Crimea) and Belarus but includes Luxemburg together with Belgium and Malta to Sicily. For example, one result of this involves Anacamptis laxiflora. This species is recorded from the British Channel Islands which the system puts in France, not in the British Islands.

One shortcoming is that the TDWG system does not designate larger islands as separate "countries" such as those belonging to the UK; Shetland Is, Orkney Is, Inner & Outer Hebrides, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands; Malta, Bornholm (Denmark) and Åland (Finland), but considers it to be important to warrant giving special botanical status to The Balearic Islands, Corfu and Sardinia (which surely must have almost identical flora), Sicily, Crete and the Eastern Aegean Islands while ignoring other Greek islands such as Corfu.

Both of the above mentioned systems do rightly take up as separate botanical "countries" the following islands; Island, Faroe Is, The Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands as well as European Turkey.

All in all, there are -- applying the above systems -- 51 separate "botanical countries." The TDWG systems follows a fairly strict classification of regions. Thus Europe is divided up into Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Middle Europe, Southwestern Europe, and Southeastern Europe. The EU "countries" of Cyprus and Eastern Aegean Islands are included in Western Asia, and the Macaronesian islands of the Azores, Selvagen Is., Madeira, Cape Verde Islands, and the Canary Islands are included in Africa. Caucasus is a separate "region". Caucasus is in itself split into two "countries: North Caucasus (the eight "countries" of Russia); and Transcaucasus (embracing seven independent states including Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan).

The different orchid taxa and hybrids of Europe will be covered in greater detail in future articles.

References (Part I)

Biogeographical regions, Europe, European Environmental Agency http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps

Brummer, R. K. 2001. World Geographic Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, Ed. 2, (TDWG).

Climate of Europe, World Book (http://en.wikepedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Europe)

Delforge, P. 2005. Orchids of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. 640pp.

Europe Land Use Map www.en.academic.ru

Europe Physical Map www.geology.com

Floristic regions in Europe according to Wolfgang Frey and Ranier Lösch.

Tutun, T. G. et al. 1980. Flora Europea.

Hardiness zone, Britain & Ireland

Svenska Trädgårds zonkarta (Vegatations zones in Sweden), Svensk Trädgård Riksförbundet http://www.tradgard.org/svensk_tradgard/zonkarta.html

Western Europe Geology Map http://mappery.com/Western-Europe-Geology-Map

World Atlas.com

World Checklist of Selected Plants (WCSP), Kew.

Copyright © 2012 Fred Campbell