Alps 2013


Me on the Schafberg. In the background the Wolfgangsee.

Since some years I am regularly drawn to the orchid search in the Alps, particularly as I am with residence in South Germany not very far therefrom. The combination of fresh mountain air, good food and gorgeous flora have a special appeal for me. This year we visited West Austria and the Geigelstein in Germany. There we wanted to look especially for some vanilla orchid-species.

With in all 20 species, 2 albinos and 1 hybrid it was once more a very successful trip.

Arrival with intermediate stop near Rosenheim (30.06.2013)

A fen in the district Rosenheim. Biotope of Orchis palustris.

We start our short holiday at Sunday afternoon. Today are the motorways free, so that we make rapid progress. Thus we have time to visit a known to us biotope of Orchis palustris, which represents only a detour of a few kilometres. Due to the cold spring the species is a little late this year and we find it fortunately in full blossom. Unhappily is the fen one of the few still remaining locations. Frighteningly this attractive orchid species is just before extinction in Germany.

View from the Schafberg on the Mondsee.

Quickly we find further orchid species: Dactylorhiza incarnata, Epipactis palustris and Platanthera bifolia. And finally also Gymnadenias. Until 2002 was the Gymnadenia-cosmos still all right. In Germany were to be found only the two very easy to distinguishing taxa Gymnadenia conopsea and Gymnadenia odoratissima, plus the variety Gymnadenia conopsea var. densiflora. In 2002 Werner Dworschak has reactivated the 1981 described Gymnadenia alpina and in addition three species and two subspecies described new.

One of my friends.

Since then all is admittedly more complicated, but certainly describes reality better. The differences in size, inflorescence and blooming time justify doubtless a more detailed view. After a long field study we determine ‚our‘ Gymnadenias eventually as Gymnadenia conopsea ssp. conopsea, Gymnadenia conopsea ssp. serotina and Gymnadenia splendida ssp. odorata.

After one hour we find finally the highlight of the day: An Orchis palustris-albino! But now we are not the first ‚orchid friends‘, who have found this specimen this year. The reed meadow roundabout is tramped down. All in all one could get the impression that the place is afflicted by a horde of boars and not by ’nature lovers‘, who endeavour about a responsible dealing with the by them appreciated nature.

Finally we arrive the Wolfgangsee in the evening and study firstly the outstanding Austrian cuisine.

On the Schafberg at the Wolfgangsee (01.07.2013)

The Schafbergbahn at the middle station.
Descent to the Himmelspforte at the northern slope.

Today it goes on the Schafberg, which raises over the Wolfgangsee. As destination we have chosen it especially for two reasons.

For one thing we want to find there Nigritella stiriaca, which only grows on a few mountains. For another thing my daughter wants to drive once with a cog railway.

In Sankt Wolfgang we board the cog railway. This starts jumpily and pants then slowly the mountain upwards. At a slow pace we already spot the first specimens of Dactylorhiza fuchsii at the slopes along the railway line.

We get off as the only tourists at the middle station. The remaining tourists favour an achievement of the top station without a physical exercise.

The moonwort (Botrychium lunaria), a grape-fern - species.

At first we search the slopes around the middle station. Here becomes apparent still a relatively strong grazing and therefore a quite orchid poverty. We find here and there Coeloglossum viride, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, Gymnadenia conopsea ssp. conopsea, Orchis mascula ssp. signifera, Orchis ustulata, Platanthera bifolia and Traunsteinera globosa.

The goal - the Schafberg peak – is still faraway.

Following this, we get cracking the ascent of the remaining 417 metres in altitude. The ascent is diversified. Downward presents a gorgeous panorama at the Wolfgangsee. The way runs through species-rich montane meadows and after we have crossed the rail line in the meantime, we find even approximately two dozen bright-pink flower heads of Nigritella stiriaca.

Above, at the mountaintop we find finally the first blossoming specimens of Nigritella austrica. This species is very close to Nigritella rhellicani and pretty difficultly to distinguish.

Finally we let fade away this great sunny day with a substantial supper on the top station.

Contrast programme: Tauplitzalm and Traweng (02.07.2013)

The Großsee on the Tauplitzalm.

At the next day we continue travelling to Bad Mitterndorf. From there we drive on the Tauplitzalm. In a switchback we stop at an albino of Gymnadenia conopsea. On the Tauplitzalm bustle still many tourists, but only a few orchids.

Looking for the right pathway.

Firstly the way passes almost falt by two lakes. Here shall already exist the first Vanilla orchids – namely the not all that long ago described Bicoloured Vanilla Orchid (Nigritella bicolor). Despite intense search we do not find that. But instead we find an intersting meadow with the Alpine butterwort (Pinguicula alpina). Finally we start the 500 m ascent on the Traweng.

The steep path causes partly vigorous protest rallies of my daughter, all the happier she is, as we finally arrive the top. The slopes of the Traweng are a contrast to the Schafberg. All in all is the area distinctly more complex. In all directions ascend flat hills, we find the summit cross suddenly in front of us.

Vegetation is a little later. Here has snow persisted much longer. But on south-exposed slopes bloom already the first Red Vanilla orchids (Nigritella rubra). The here also occurring Nigritella archiducis-joannis we do not find despite an intense search. Probably we are some days to early considering the weather conditions in this year.

We deny ourselves a side trip on the west flank, where it shall give Nigritella widderi in addition, in view of the advanced time and brace ourselves instead with a delicious pork roast before homeward journey. Then, at midnight we are at home after all.

A day trip on the Geigelstein (05.07.2013)

After it has not worked with Nigritella widderi on the Traweng, I go today on a day trip on the Geigelstein, where this species shall exist too. Fortunately it is today not any more as sunny as the days before. Otherwise would be the 1.100 metres in altitude a quite sweat-inducing matter.

In the morning it has still rained. At noon then fog patches roll by along the Geigelstein.

Approximately at midway I pass a wet meadow. On it grow beside Dactylorhiza fuchsii and Dactylorhiza majalis also several hybrids Dactylorhiza fuchsii x majalis.

Further up, already above the Priener Hütte, it becomes then distinctly fuller of orchids. Here brim over with Coeloglossum viride, Gymnadenia alpina, Gymnadenia conopsea ssp. conopsea, Leucorchis albida, Platanthera bifolia, Orchis mascula ssp. signifera, Orchis ustulata and Traunsteinera globosa.

Then, approximately 150 metres below the mountaintop I find under some flowering Nigritella rubra and budding Nigritella rhellicani also a singleton of Nigritella widderi. What a grand finale. After a refreshment on the Priener Hütte I drive home and simmer already with excitement next year.


date weekday visited locations
30.06.2013 Sunday arrival, Rosenheim
01.07.2013 Monday Schafberg
02.07.2013 Tuesday Tauplitzalm, Traweng, departure
05.07.2013 Friday day trip Geigelstein

Found species

no. genus species notice
1. Coeloglossum viride
2. Dactylorhiza fuchsii
3. incarnata
4. majalis
5. majalis x fuchsii hybrid
6. Epipactis palustris
7. Gymnadenia alpina
8. conopsea ssp. conopsea
9. conopsea ssp. conopsea albino
10. conopsea ssp. serotina
11. splendida ssp. odorata
12. Leucorchis albida
13. Nigritella austriaca
14. rhellicani
15. rubra
16. stiriaca
17. widderi
18. Orchis mascula ssp. signifera
19. palustris
20. palustris albino
21. ustulata
22. Platanthera bifolia
23. Traunsteinera globosa
Close shot of the Moss Campion (Silene acaulis).
Scarp in the summit area of the Schafberg. Habitat of Nigritella austriaca.
A hoverfly on a Bald Stemmed Globeflower (Globularia nudicaulis).
The Alpine gentian (Gentiana alpina), a characteristic plant of the Alps.
On the Traweng. View on the west flank.
View from the Traweng down on the Tauplitzalm.
Ascent on the Traweng.