Among the great variety of plants that we can observe in the Maestrazgo region, the orchids stand out, a botanical group, unknown to many, despite being one of the beauties of the plant kingdom.
They are plants capable of living for many years. They bloom once a year, depending on the weather conditions, and their duration is short. The great biodiversity of Teruel’s Maestrazgo, and the variability of ecosystems it comprises, make this an area of special importance for this group of plants. Spring here is later than in other areas of lower altitude: it begins in late May and lasts until well into July.
In Spain, 120 species of orchids have been referenced and in this region almost all the genera of this group are represented, with 42 species. The one that we could consider as the emblematic orchid of the area is the Epipactis cardina Fortanete being the place where it was described for the first time. They live in pine forests and forest edges and together with the Epipactis provinciales, unique in Spain, make this territory unique. We can also observe in the area one of the smaller orchids: the Goodyera repens, a genus of plants that have their natural habitat in the Pyrenees. Goodyera repens a genus of plants that have their natural habitat in the Pyrenees.
The rest of the groups such as Ophrys, Dactylorhizaor Orchis can be seen in other places, but this group of Epipactis is very specific to Maestrazgo.
In the meadows and forest clearings we can enjoy a great variety of orchids. Some of the earliest to flower are Ophrys scolopax, Ophrys castellana, Ophrys sphegodes, Ophrys passionis, Ophrys apifera, Ophrys lutea and Ophrys spe culum. All of them are quite small but their colorfulness catches the eye amidst the greenery of the countryside.
Many orchids such as Anacamptis coriophora, Anacamptis pyramidalis, Cephalanthera (C. damasonium, C. rubra, C. longifolia), Orchis mascula and Orchis tenera, which share habitat, but not the same flowering period, shelter among the thickets and bushes where dense thickets are formed. Thus, in the same place, but depending on the time, we can enjoy different species.
In the waterlogged meadows we can find orchids of the genus Dactylorhiza (D. elata, D. fuchsii, D. incarnata, D. maculata), of the genus Epipactis palustris, the only Epipactis that can be found in humid areas, and those of the genera Orchis militaris and Platanthera algeriensis. They are accompanied by the silver rush(Eriophorum latifolium), a common plant in the arctic tundra and present in the Palomita Valley, Cantavieja and Villarroya de los Pinares.
In Maestrazgo we can enjoy meadows that remain green almost all summer and mountain pine forests where we can find Anacamptis champagneuxii, Anacamptis morio, Dactylorhiza viridis, Gymnadenia conopsea, Listera ovata and Neotinea ustulata.
The interest aroused by these plants has helped to raise awareness of nature conservation and to enhance the value of the richness of the territory.
Text by Conchita Muñoz (from an article published in Revista Peirón 29)