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Burnt-tip orchid, Neotinea ustulata (ustulatus meaning burnt in Latin), derives its common name from the burnt appearance of its flowers when in bud. It is native to Europe where it is considered to be of Least Concern. Members of the British public voted it the county flower of Wiltshire in 2002, in a campaign run by Plantlife, a wild flora conservation charity. Large colonies of burnt-tip orchid can be found in Wiltshire, an English county notable for its abundance of chalk downs.

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description

Burnt-tip orchid, Neotinea ustulata (ustulatus meaning burnt in Latin), derives its common name from the burnt appearance of its flowers when in bud. It is native to Europe where it is considered to be of Least Concern. Members of the British public voted it the county flower of Wiltshire in 2002, in a campaign run by Plantlife, a wild flora conservation charity. Large colonies of burnt-tip orchid can be found in Wiltshire, an English county notable for its abundance of chalk downs.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Burnt-tip orchid is a typical meadow orchid found in central and southern Europe. It is mainly found from Spain to Greece in the south. The northernmost limits of its distribution reach southern Sweden and England. To the east, it can be found in the Baltic States, Belarus and Ukraine, extending as far as the Caucasus and the Ural Mountains. The highest point at which it occurs is in the Alps and the Carpathian Mountains, at up to 2,400 m above sea level.

Description

Burnt-tip orchid was believed to grow underground for 10-15 years before the first leafy stem emerged, and it was thought that several more years would pass before it was able to flower, but more recent studies have shown this to be incorrect. It takes about three years from seed to flowering stage, which is in fact relatively quick for an orchid. 

Each plant has two spherical tubers (underground stem sections acting as storage organs), which bear thick roots. A few leaves, 3-9 cm long with highly visible parallel veins, develop at the base of the stem, as well as 1-2 leaves enveloping the flowering stem. The flower-bearing stem can be up to 28 cm tall (although is usually less than 13 cm tall) with a diameter of 1.5-2.0 cm and bears the individual flowers in a dense, cylindrical arrangement.

An individual plant can produce up to 70 flowers, but usually many fewer. The hood of each flower is formed by the sepals and upper petals (both 3 mm in length) and is red-brown in colour. The lip (lower petal) is 4 mm long, white with crimson red spots, and has three lobes. The central lobe is shallowly lobed itself and is raised towards the front with a short, fat spur (tapering projection) at the base of the lip. The column (fused male and female parts of the flower) is short, a common characteristic of species in the genus Neotinea . The flowers have a strong, sweet scent similar to honey.

Neotinea ustulata flowers from the beginning of May until the end of June, the duration being dependent upon elevation. The subspecies Neotinea ustulata subsp. aestivalis , which also occurs in the UK, flowers in July, has taller and less dense flower-bearing stems and smaller, darker flowers with narrower lips.

Pollination of burnt orchids

Burnt-tip orchids are insect-pollinated, with recorded pollinators including a tachinid fly ( Echinomyia magnicornis ), several bumblebee species and the goat beetle ( Leptura levida ). However, pollination appears to be a rare event in British populations, where seed set is low. Burnt-tip orchids may also propagate vegetatively by means of underground stems, as evidenced by the occurrence of small groups of closely spaced plants.

Threats and conservation

Populations of burnt-tip orchid have suffered large declines, particularly in central Europe and Britain. This is due to habitat destruction as a result of building, quarrying and, in particular, more intense agricultural practices. Burnt-tip orchids can only survive in unfertilised, unploughed grassland due to their protracted underground growth period. In addition, where grazing is discontinued burnt-tip orchid is liable to decline because its small size means it cannot survive in long grass.

Neotinea ustulata is listed as Endangered in The Vascular Plant Red Data List for Great Britain. As a result it has been selected as one of the 50 species for the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) Threatened Plants Project. This project plans to carry out surveys of these 50 threatened plants to increase our understanding of their distribution and ecology and thus help to explain their decline. The information gained will be used to compile reports to help inform conservation programmes for these 50 species and so aid in their protection.

Millennium Seed Bank: Saving seeds

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Six collections of Neotinea ustulata seeds are held in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

Kew's UK Virtual Herbarium Project

The UK Virtual Herbarium Project focuses on the digitisation of all the Kew herbarium specimens of the 50 species on the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) Threatened Plants Project list.

High resolution images of these specimens have been created and uploaded to Herbaria @ Home, a website that uses crowdsourcing (enlisting the assistance of volunteers via the internet) to help institutions gather specimen label data. This information will be vital to inform future conservation strategies for these species.

Specimen label data increase our knowledge of past and current geographical distributions of a species, which can then be compared to illustrate declines within a species' range. In addition, this information may help us to understand the causes of the decline.

Members of the public can help with the data input for these specimen labels by registering with Herbaria @ Home. Volunteers do not need to be a plant expert to help; the website provides a video guide to take people through the input process and a more comprehensive written guide is also available.

Distribution
United Kingdom
Ecology
Rough grassland on chalky subsoil (rarely in acidic soils); mountain pastures, mountain valleys, subalpine and alpine ledges, wet Molinetum grasslands, fens and open pinewoods.
Conservation
Endangered (EN) in the UK but Least Concern (LC) internationally according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Hazards

None known.

Native to:

Albania, Austria, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Central European Rus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East European Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Krym, North Caucasus, Northwest European R, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South European Russi, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Transcaucasus, Ukraine, West Siberia, Yugoslavia

Extinct in:

Netherlands

English
Burnt-tip orchid

Neotinea ustulata (L.) R.M.Bateman, Pridgeon & M.W.Chase appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Prescot, J. [s.n.] K000364163
s.coll. [s.n.] K000364165
s.coll. [s.n.] 78319.000
RMB/PJR [s.n.] 78338.000
s.coll. [s.n.], Austria K000364176
Civeyrel et al [576], France 78337.000
s.coll. [s.n.] 78321.000
Lang, A.F. [s.n.], Germany K000364162
s.coll. [s.n.] 78320.000
s.coll. [s.n.] 78318.000
Milne-Redhead, E., United Kingdom Orchis ustulata 20789.000
Milne-Redhead, E. [2372], Austria Orchis ustulata 258.000
Sayers, D., Austria Orchis ustulata 259.000
Barneby, T., France Orchis ustulata 28724.000
Verdcourt, B. [4677 B], France Orchis ustulata 32430.000
Wood, J.J. [222], Italy Orchis ustulata 38927.000
Chesterman, D.D., Italy Orchis ustulata 40685.000
Wood, J.J. [511], France Orchis ustulata 45817.000
Wood, J.J. [505], France Orchis ustulata 45882.000
Joseph, J. [348], Spain Orchis ustulata 48821.000
Taylor, P. [1573], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata 5852.000
MWC [MWC 0-1371] Orchis ustulata 70503.000
Gibbons, J. [s.n.], Great Britain Orchis ustulata K000773941
Hill, A.W. [s.n.], Great Britain Orchis ustulata K000773895
Bickham, S.H. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773893
Jenner, J.H.A. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773917
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773921
Gregor, A.G. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773922
Marten, J. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773927
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773931
Bowman, R.B. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773963
Clarke, C.B. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773904
Lupton, F.G.H. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773896
Britton, C.E. [s.n.], Great Britain Orchis ustulata K000773934
Bunyard, P.F. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773915
Saunders, M. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773899
Lester-Garland, L.V. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773905
Saunders, M. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773898
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773956
Vine, S.R. [s.n.], Great Britain Orchis ustulata K000773924
Turrill, W.B. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773903
Townsend, C.C. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773943
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773960
s.coll. [s.n.], Great Britain Orchis ustulata K000773942
Summerhayes, V.S. [1812], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773894
Turrill, W.B. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773900
Gregor, A.G. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773923
Hosking, A. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773947
McIvor, W. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773959
Southey Hill, R. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773902
Dumortier [s.n.], Luxembourg Orchis ustulata K000364164
Turner, D. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773930
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773949
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773909
Kingston, C. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773955
V.L. [s.n.], Great Britain Orchis ustulata K000773907
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773918
Taylor, P.G. [0048], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773946
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773953
Hall, P.M. [s.n.], Great Britain Orchis ustulata K000773911
Leathes, G.R. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773929
Latter, O.H. [30134], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773938
Black, A.O. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773928
Smith, J.E. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773952
Makins, F.K. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773906
Turner, H. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773951
Bromfield, W.A. [s.n.], Great Britain Orchis ustulata K000773908
Turrill, W.B. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773897
Masurin, W.C. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773925
Waterfall, W.B. [1264], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773916
Butler, T. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773910
Cubitt, M. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773950
Marshall, E.S. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773901
Latter, O.H. [29941], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773937
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773936
Churchill, G.C. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773944
Lowne, B.T. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773933
Britton, C.E. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773914
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773939
Jacob, J. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773932
Saunders, A. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773945
Worsdell, W.C. [669], Great Britain Orchis ustulata K000773961
Spare, G.H. [518], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773935
Ward, J. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773958
Lowne, B.T. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773913
Lupton, F.G.H. [s.n.], Great Britain Orchis ustulata K000773940
Lowne, B.T. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773912
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773919
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773920
E.B. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773957
Jeffrey, J.F. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773926
Darwall, L. [s.n.], United Kingdom Orchis ustulata K000773954

First published in Lindleyana 12: 122 (1997)

Accepted by

  • Dimopoulos, P., Raus, T., Bergmeier, E., Constantinidis, T., Iatrou, G., Kokkini, S., Strid, A., & Tzanoudakis, D. (2013). Vascular plants of Greece. An annotated checklist: 1-372. Botanic gardens and botanical museum Berlin-Dahlem, Berlin and Hellenic botanical society, Athens.
  • G.I.R.O.S. (2009). Orchidee d'Italia: 1-303. Il Castello srl, Italy.
  • Govaerts, R. (2003). World Checklist of Monocotyledons Database in ACCESS: 1-71827. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Kretzschmar, H. ,Eccarius, W. & Dietrich, H. (2007). The Orchid Genera Anacamptis, Orchis and Neotinea. Phylogeny, taxonomy, morphology, biology, distribution, ecology and hybridisation, ed. 2: 1-544. EchinoMedia verlag, Bürgel.
  • Kühn, R., Pedersen, H.Æ. & Cribb, v (2019). Field Guide to the Orchids of Europe and the Mediterranean: 1-430. Kew Publishing, England.

Not accepted by

  • Galán Cela, P. & Gamarra, R. (2003). Check List of the Iberian and Balearic Orchids 2 Anales del Jardin Botanico de Madrid 60: 309-329. [Cited as Orchis ustulata.]

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Cheffings, C. M. & Farrell, L. (eds) (2005). The Vascular Plant Red Data List for Great Britain. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough.
  • Dietrich, H., Eccarisu, W. & Kretzschmar, H. (2007). The Orchid Genera Anacamptis, Orchis, Neotinea. Echinomedia, Bürgel.
  • Harrap, A. & Harrap, S. (2009). Orchids of Britain & Ireland; a Field and Site Guide. Second Edition. A&C Black, London.
  • Jenkinson, M. N. (1995). Wild Orchids of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Orchid Sundries Ltd, Gillingham.
  • Lang, D. (1989). A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Great Britain and Ireland. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • PlantNetwork (2011). Neotinea ustulata. (Accessed 16 November 2011).
  • Plantlife (2010). Burnt orchid. (Accessed 16 November 2011).
  • Tropicos (2011). Neotinea ustulata R. M. Bateman, Pridgeon & M. W. Chase. (Accessed 14 Nov 2011).
  • WCSP (2011). World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. (accessed 23 November 2011).

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
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Orchideae: e-monocot.org
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