The Valencia Region offers a wealth of opportunities for visitors to get in touch with nature and to admire numerous species of orchids, making this region a delightful destination for plant and wildlife lovers.
Mediterranean orchids produce microscopic seeds, which have no reserve tissues to support the embryo when it germinates. That is why they must be associated with fungi as soon as they germinate. The fungi provide them with some of their nourishment. These are the so-called ‘mycorrhizae’, which are highly specific to each place and most likely to each species. In addition, because they depend on fungi, these plants cannot live with harmful substances like sulphur and copper. In other words, that is why most orchids only grow in very natural places.
In Valencia Region, there are still good natural patches to look for orchids. Abandon orchards and natural meadows are probably the best habitats.
A total of 70 species of wild orchids have been identified in the Valencia Region, most of them classified as very rare. In addition, numerous uncommon hybrids such as Ophrys x castroviejoi, Ophrys x pielteri, Ophrys x pseudoespeculum, Orchis x bivonae and Ophrys x serrae can be found in the region.
The diverse climate, soils and mountain ranges in the Valencia Region provides the perfect habitat for wide range of orchids. Some live in arid areas at low altitudes, such as the Fan-lipped orchid (Orchis collina) which can be seen in Alicante. On the other hand, others are found in the high mountains: Sierra Mariola and Penyagolosa. For instance, in the Penyagolosa (North of Castellón) you will find Elder-flowered orchid (Dactylorhiza sambucina) and Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii). In addition, in the woods you will find Helleborines (Epipactis kleinii), Red Hellebotine (Cephalanthera rubra) and White Helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium). What is more, there are small patches with Butterfly orchids (Platanthera), Fragant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) and Bird nest orchid (Neottia nidus-avis), among others.
Regarding Sierra Mariola in Alicante, here we will look for Pink butterfly orchid (Anacamptis papilonacea), the gorgeous Lady orchid (Orchis purpurea) and Violet limodore (Limodorum abortivum).
Many of our orchids, particularly those of the genus Ophrys (the most common type in Valencia’s lowlands) have flowers that look like wild bees. This is an adaptation to attract pollinators, which, are looking for a mate.
Among our orchids, there is an endemic species Ophrys lucentina. It is a bee orchid with a distinctive yellow border in the “labellum”. Moreover, we can find other beauties like the Sombre-bee Orchid (Ophrus lupercalis), Dark-bee orchid (Ophrys dyris), the Mirror orchid (Ophrys speculum) and the Yellow Bee orchid (Ophrys lutea) to name just a few.
The genera Orchis is also well represented with gorgeous hybrids like Orchis x bivonae, a hybrid from the combination of Italian man orchid (Orchis italica) and Man orchid (Ochis anthropophora). Besides, it is not unusual to find large parched of Bug orchids (Orchis fragans) mixed with Pyramidal orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalis).
We cannot overlook the largest of all, the impressive Giant orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum). A rather common specie and one of the earliest species to bloom.
In Valencia region is also possible to find a large number of Helleborine. The most common ones are Narrow-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia), White Helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium) and red Helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra). However, you might find some restricted range species such as Epipactis cardina, Epipactis tremolsii or Epipactis phyllanthes. They are found in the forested and highest mountains in the region. On the other hand, in the lowlands close to the coast is possible to find two species of Serapias. These are Tongue orchid (Serapia lingua) and the Small-flowered tongue orchid (Serapia parviflora).
Finally, in Autumn we are delighted with the last orchid of the season, the Autumn lady’s tresses (Spiranthes spiralis).
You can read more about the orchids found in the Valencia region and Spain in the following article. We as a local experts organise orchids walks that can be combined with butterflies, dragonflies and birdwatching tours. Please, do not hesitate to contact us for further information.
Today I have prepared for Jan and Robert an interesting itinerary which combines wetland birds, with butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. The last weeks has been very warm for March (max, temperature of 31ºC!) and butterflies are already very active. In addition, we are at the peak of the Mediterranean orchids so I expect to see a good number and variety of them.
After picking Jan and Robert up in Jávea we set off to Pego marshes. The paddy fields are being drying out and the number of birds is amazing. There are thousands of Little and Cattle Egret, White Wagtails, Pipits, Gulls, etc. Very soon we find 19 Common Cranes feeding in a field and Pau spots a couple of Little Ringed Plover and a Bluethroat popping out from the reeds. As we drive around, we find a stunning male Hen Harrier. It is probably the same bird seen last week by Pau. Other common birds seen include Hoopoe, Serins and Tree Sparrows.
In the North part of the park, we spot 2 Booted Eagles, several Marsh Harrier and 5 Common Buzzard migrating above the Montanyeta verda. Later, we find over 100 Audouin’s Gulls, joined by few Mediterranean Gulls feeding on the invasive american crayfish in a paddy field.
After a rewarding coffee stop in Pego, we continue driving to the near valleys to look for butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. In our fist stop, Pau show us 3 spikes of Mirror Orchid (Ophrys speculum) and a couple Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera). Our next stop is on the shade of a stone oak to have lunch. Soon we have to stand up to see a nice Firecrest and a stunning Moroccan orange tip butterfly. Once we finish and pack up the picnic table and chairs back in the boot, we drive few km more. A short walk reveals few tens of Early purple orchids (Orchis olbiensis). We find from white ones to magenta, a nice variety of colours!
Later we drive to an area near Vall d’Ebo where Pau has found previously orchids and his favourite butterfly, the Spanish festoon. There, we see lots of spikes and basal rosettes of two species: Sombre-bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca) and the endemic Ophrys dianica. Regarding butterflies, we have superb views of Spanish festoon, Bath white and Provence Hairstreak among others. Along the road, we find a Cirl Bunting.
Finally, on the way back to Jávea we make a quick stop to add some cracking orchids: Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum) and Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys scolopax). Furthermore, we add two hybrids Ophrys x castroviejoi (O. scolopax x O. speculum) and Ophrys x pielteri (O. scolopax x O. tenthredinifera). Regarding butterflies, we add an extra 15 species more of butterflies, including Scarce Swallowtail, Cleopatra, Western Dappled White, Mallow Skipper and Holly Blue.
All in all, a fantastic general wildlife day out with many birds, butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca, Spain. Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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