Home  |    About Orchids  |   Orchid Areas   |   Galleries  |   Comments   |   Contact   |   Search 

View from the island Asunden toward one of the biggest rauk field at Gotlands.

During autumn / winter 2021 it was decided that we would once again visit Gotland. This time some good old friends would also be there, so in the end there were 11 of us who boarded the Gotland ferry from Oskarshamn on May 12. Our stay was planned for June 12-18, a little less than a week.
Pre-booked accommodation was also this time at Visby Gustavsvik Stugby. Admittedly quite small rooms but for most of the stay we would still be outside so it felt OK. The booking as Bed & Breakfast worked perfectly. A good breakfast meant that we could start the days in good condition.
From what you could see, it seemed that spring was later here than at home. A lot of plants were in full bloom here, while at home it had already started to wither. Recently, however, it had been hot and very dry making even the wettest marshes now appear to be completely dried up. So, although we were happy with the trip, having nice weather throughout our short week, Gotland would probably need a lot of rain.

Day 1 (13 Juni 2022) Hall - Harudden
The area is part of Hall Hangvar, one of Gotland's largest, contiguous nature conservation areas.


Dag 1: Hall-Harudden
Dag 2: Bläse
Dag 3: Hoburgen
Dag 4: Eastern Gotland
Dag 5: Anacamptis palustris
Dag 6: Day of return journey
Orchids found


Typical environment for Orchis spitzelii. Sparse coastal forest with windswept pines.

One of the goals of the trip was to find Spitzel's Orchid (Orchis spitzelii) and since this is an early flowering species, flowers at the turn of May-June, our hope was to maybe find some good specimens if we started with the sites for these. One such site was at Hall where we walked the 1.5 km down to the beach areas. The sparse pine forest just inside the beach are suitable sites for Spitzel's Orchid. Our concern that they would have withered turned out to be wrong. Perhaps we had been helped by the earlier cold spring because here there were many of the species in good condition.


Admittedly, many had started to fall in the lower part of the spike, but enough flowers in good condition made us satisfied. I didn't count but estimate that I saw at least 50 plants.

The color of the flowers on Orchis spitzelii can vary quite a lot. Below you can see two color variants, one darker and one lighter than the usual color.
Otherwise, it was the orchids Orchis mascula that dominated the area. This one too with very variable colour as seen in the next three photos, one bi-coloured, one white with red dots (var. semialba) and one completely white (var. alba). Other species seen here were Cephlanthera rubra and Neottia nidus-avis. Another species seen here (but not pictured below) was Cephalanthera longifolia.

On the way back to the cars we discovered that there were orchids in a small bog right next to our path. It turned out to be another couple of new species for the day, Platanthera bifolia subsp. bifolia (or perhaps is this subsp. latiflora?) and Dactyloriza incarnata subsp. cruenta. Both species grew in abundance together with Primula farinosa.


T the left Platanthera bifolia ssp. bifolia, and right Dactylorhiza incarnata ssp. cruenta, with the typical characteristic, dotted leaves with dots on both the upper and lower sides of the leaves.


It is not only orchids that are flowering on Gotland at this time. Poppy, yellow mig-nonette and perhaps mainly blueweed were sometimes seen in impressive num-bers.


Pearl-bordered fritillary was also seen on our way back.



A few kilometers further on, a road goes to the left towards Harudden. Just before you reach the beach area itself, there is a small parking lot. Here on the slope among the flowering Early Purple Orchid, we had our packed lunch before exploring the site. Also from this area there were Orchis spitzelii reported and it didn't take long before we found some, although not nearly as many as at Hall. Possibly the drought had an effect because it was very dry in the coastal forest.
In the marsh just inside the beach, which was also completely dried up, we found a lot of Dactylorhiza incarnata.


Orchis spitzelii


Other orchids seen here were large specimens of Dactylorhiza incarnata, picture 1, Neottia ovata, picture 2, and Cephalanthera longifolia, picture 3.
We saw quite a few butterflies during our trip (there seemed to be few of them this year). Below are small blue and common blue butterfly (probably).

Bonus stop
On our way back we made a stop after a few kilometers. Last time we were on Gotland, there were a lot of orchids in the sparse pine forest. It turned out that there was a lot to find this time too. A different observation was made when we spotted a golden eagle circling above us.

Orchis militaris was one of the species seen at this site. Along with Dactylorhiza incarnata, it was not unusual to see them in large numbers in roadside ditches here and there.

At this site we found Gymna-denia conopsea for the first time at this journey

So also for Ophrys insectifera which we later came to see in large numbers.

It was perhaps above all Platanthera sp. that domina-ted this site. Here one that is a suspected hybrid between Platanthera chlorantha and bi-folia (possibly subsp. latiflora).

Close-up of the flowers of the suspected hybrid.

A nice observation was made here before we started to explore the site when we discovered that a golden eagle was circling above us.

This was the last stop for the day. Time flies when you're having fun. There is much to see and discover in Gotland's nature.


To the top

Day 2 (14 Juni 2022) Bläse

The hybrid to the left and the two parents, here with small specimens, in the center and to the right.

Also on this second day, we chosed to go north. This time to the northeastern part of Gotland, east of the bay that splits the northern end of the island. Here are two of the sites I found most interesting on Gotland, partly the road through the pine forest from Bläse out towards the lime quarry which has lots of white and red forest lily, partly Hässleänget, a Gotland meadow usually with a lot of orchids.


From Bläse we chose the gravel road out towards the former lime quarry northeast of Bläse. In the sparse pine forest along the way out there are large amounts of Cephalanthera rubra and longifolia respectively. Here we also found the hybrid between these, Cephalanthera x otto-hechtii.
A little to the east of the road there is a marsh, Gridhammarskärret, from where Anacamptis palustris has been reported. However, we did not go that far, but only down to the now water-filled quarry. Here we found our first Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. ochroleuca for this trip.

There is a narrow-gauge railway from Bläse out to the limestone quarry which now transports tourists who want to experience the landscape.

The main goal for this trip was to find the hybrid between Cephalanthera rubra and longifolia. However, it turned out that there were a lot of those in the sparse forest together with hundreds of Sword-leaved and Red Helleborine. As is often the case with hybrids, the color varied a lot on this one as well (pictures 1-3). There were also quite a few Epipactis atrorubens (picture 4) in the stony, gravelly forest floor. The entire forest grows on old slag products from the lime quarry. This Epipactis probably had at least a week or so until flowering.
A nice find down by the "lake", which was made up of the water filled quarry, was Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. ochroleuca (picture 5). However, most of what was seen here on the shore were Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. incarnata with many colors (picture 6). The last picture shows a cinnabar moth. 

Bonus stop
We returned same way from Bläse as we came. A few km further on there was an area with an incredible amo-unt of orchids at our last visit and so also now. Without comparison, it is the densest stand of Ophrys insectifera I have ever seen. 100s at an area of about 15-20 square meters (see picture).

We spoke to the owner of the house opposite the area. He was interested in orchids and told me, among other things, that in the summer he had lots of Anacamptis pyramidalis at his lawn. We also managed to find some of these but at this time only with a few flowers open.
Other species growing in this small area between the road and the beach were: Cephalanthera longifolia, Neottia ovata, Orchis militaris, Dactylorhiza incarnata ssp. incarnata and ssp. ochroleuca.

PS: I got a message from the house owner, a while after we got home, telling me that almost all orchids were uprooted. Most likely it was cranes that had done this. It is known from other places that the cranes can uproot orchids, biting off and eating the root tubers but leaving the plant itself behind.

Anacamptis pyramidalis

We continued for a few more kilometers before we again tur-ned off and drove down towards some fishing huts right by the sea. An idyllic place to have this day's packed lunch.


Back on the road, we set course for our next destination, Hässleänget. It is a typical Gotland "meadow" with a nice leafy environment. This meadow has both wetlands and dry slopes, which makes the area very species-rich. At the time of our visit it was very dry everywhere and not nearly as many orchids as on my last visit. But we found a number even now, for example our trip's only Dactylorhiza traunsteineri.  

View from the dryer part of the meadow.

This is probably Platanthera bifolia ssp. latiflora. What is typical of this is the very long spur that often reaches right through the inflorescence. Usually it also has a more sparse inflorescence than subsp. bifolia.

Here we found Dactylorhiza traunsteineri. Heavily spotted, rather narrow leaves and the lips of the flowers are almost without division into three lobes.

Inflorescence on Dactylorhiza traunstein-eri. Typically short, rather few flowers.
It is now considered as a subspecies of D. majalis and is then called: Dactylor-hiza majalis subsp. lapponica.

Our plan was to go to Bräntings haid and Hoburgsmyr but instead we chose to go down to Nybroviken to find Dactylorhiza majalis subsp.baltica if possible. A species that you need to go to Gotland to see in Sweden. There are supposed to be some plants on a site near Piteå, but uncertain if these are still there.

After a few miles and the last part on narrow dirt roads towards Asunden, an island in Nybroviken, we arrived to the site for Dactylorhiza majalis subsp. baltica. No problem finding those, they were in abundance together with D. incarnata subsp. incarnata and some subsp. cruenta.

Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. baltica can be found at a few sites on Gotland. It is otherwise a species that has its distri-bution in the Baltic states and possibly further into Russia.

Inflorescence of Dactylorhiza majalis subsp. baltica

In the marsh at Nybroviken there were very large specimens of D. incarnata subsp. incarnata. Here, as at most other sites we saw, the flower color varied quite a bit.

To the top

Asunden is a largely bare island at the entrance to Nybroviken. It is about 2x1 km and there you will find one of Gotland's largest area with rauks. Only the imagination puts an end to what you can find there: A Janus face (image 2 below), a camel or perhaps a rhinoceros.
A bridge crosses from the "mainland" to the island and in the shallow water there are a lot of birds: Tern, mother swan with young and fishing heron. 

After the visit to Asunden, we decided it was time to return to Gustavsvik again. But noted that another pleasant day had passed with great speed. 

Day 3 (15 Juni 2022) Hoburgen

View with Hoburgsgubben, perhaps the most famous of the island's rauks but hardly the most spectacular.

On this third day, we did the opposite of what we did the first two days that we spent on the northern end of the island. Now we chose to go almost as far south as you can go, to Hoburgen.

We started the day by, after driving a few miles, searching in a dry area outside Vamlingsbo. Very dry! In the edges towards the forest outside the area there was apparently some moisture because here it was greener and it was also here that we found orchids. Now we came across Neotinea ustulata for the first time, a species that we had expected to find earlier.

Much of what we saw here was faded or about to fade. The picture shows, in addition to Neotinea ustulata, the last remains of Anacamptis morio and Dactylorhiza sambucina.
Platanthera bifolia, Orchis militaris and Orchis mascula were other species here in the wetter parts.

The last part of our journey towards Hoburgen we chose to drive a smaller road along the coast to Hoburgen. We turned off the main road a few km after Vamlingsbo at a sign "Vacker väg till Hoburgen". And it is a beautiful landscape along the coast here. We therefore chose to take our lunch break here to really enjoy the beautiful view and the lovely weather.

At this time of year, it is not too crowded at popular tourist destinations such as Hoburgen. We looked around among the rocks for a while. There was also time for a small break for ice cream before we continued towards Muskmyr nature reserve.

Muskmyr Nature Reserve

View of Muskmyr. Here there are also open lakes at the edges of the marsh with interesting bird life. Hence the bird tower. 

About 6 km from Hoburgen there is a small parking lot for visitors to the reserve. There is a path that goes around the entire bog, but we chose to botanize on the nearest side. It was dry here too so walking around in the bog was no problem. There were a lot of orchids in the wettest areas. However, nothing new for the trip. In addition to the species below, Platanthera bifolia, Neottia ovata and Orchis militaris were seen.

Muskmyr was the last stop this day. The 100 km from Gustavsvik to Hoburgen and back takes time on Gotland's roads. But even during the transport stretches there were things worth stopping for.

A typical "lambgift" (perhaps most typical at Fårö) caught our attention. The Gotland sheep go (went?) outside all year round and this type of building was therefore open so that the sheeps could seek shelter in bad weather. Often there was also a loft where the farmers stored hay.

If you look carefully when driving, you can see large groups of orchids in many places on the edges of ditches along the road. Presumably, the availability of moisture means that there sometimes are abundant and large populations in these mini-environments.
These Dactylorhiza incarnata are a small part of such a site that made one slow down.


To the top

Day 4 (16 Juni 2022) Eastern Gotland

View from Gylviken. During our trip, not much was seen of the remilitarization of Gotland. But at least one of the Coast Guard ships was out here.


Today's trip, which we called "East Gotland", was dedicated to the search for Dactylorhiza majalis subsp. elatior. We started by looking just outside Slite, in a marsh, for a recross of subsp. elatior with (probably) D. fuchsii because these got spotted leaves. Also subsp. elatior, it is believed, has a hybrid origin. However, we did not manage to find that hybrid here.
We therefore continued on to Gylviken where there would be a site for D. majalis subsp. elatior. Once there, it turned out that not only were there plenty of elatior, but also the previously sought-after spotted-leaf hybrid.


Down by Gylviken we parked at some old fishermen's cabins (?).


Below are pictures of what was seen at Gylviken. From left Dactylorhiza majalis subsp. elatior, photos 1 and 2. The next two photos show the spotted leaf hybrid. Image 5 is probably a pure D. fuchsii. This should be a common species on the island but as we didn't see it on any other sites, it probably wasn't flowering yet. Some single Anacmptis pyramidalis had also just started flowering. The last picture shows a Platanthera bifolia with a very long spur (and sparse spike) which makes it likely to be subsp. latiflora.

On our way back, out towards the main road, we noticed that there was a lot of Ceph-alanthera longifolia in the pine forest along the road. Of course this caused an extra stop because between the pines stood the most beautiful specimen of the species I have ever seen, in perfect condition as well.

Cephalanthera longifolia

Out at the main road again, we made a short stop to look at Klinteklinten, a area with rauks that here rises directly out of the "turf" and far from any beach which is the usual environment for these pheno-mena.


The next destination for the day was Vikalu. Previously, Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. elatior was considered to be two different orchids until a scientific investigation and description was made, partly there was "Gylviksnycklar" which we just had seen, partly another one which grow here at Viklau and therefore named "Viklaunycklar". These are now considered the same species.
Unfortunately, we were unable to find any such here despite diligent searching.

Folhammar rauks

Folhammar rauks just north of Ljugarn is impressive both in terms of size and shape of the rauks, well worth a visit. A few of us chose to drive up to this before heading back home after another interesting day.

To the top

Day 5 (17 juni 2022) Anacamptis palustris-day

View from Krakvät nature conservation area with Anacamptis palustris in the foreground.

Now we had reached the last excursion day of our journey. We had already decided from day one that this route should be at the last of our days. Anacamptis palustris, which we hoped to find this day, is usually noted as flowering in late June and July. So hoping to find these flowering we wanted to do this as late as possible.

But before searching for Anacamptis palustris, we would visit a site for Cephalanthera damasonium, another species we didn't come across during the other days. The site is located on the steep slopes of Klinteberget. We chose to drive up the "mountain" and from there go down the slope. As usual, there was lot of the sought-after orchid here. In addition also a lot of Cephalanthera rubra.

Cephalanthera damasonium in Sweden is found only at Gotland. Just like other Che-phalanthera sp. it grows in sparse forest, usually in deci-duous forest.

The flowers of C. damason-ium do not open much, they are more like half closed bells. 

Neottia nidus-avis also thrives here in the dim light under the deciduous forest canopy. Here we could see these in large groups.

Another nice find here made among all the Cephalanthera rubra was a white specimen, an alba form of rubra.


In the Nordic region, it is only at Gotland that Anacamptis palustris can be found. How it ended up here is unclear. Otherwise, it is found in some area in northern Germany as well as scattered occurrences in southern Europe.
For this day we had two sites where this orchid usually is found. Partly Äsketräsk, about which it is said that there it usually blooms earliest. Partly Krakvät, a marsh just inside the coastline.
We started with Äsketräsk, which is a small part of the former huge wetland area of Mästermyr, but which today is mostly excavated and is now arable land.
Just like the other wetland sites we visited, this one was completely dried out. In what usually use to be a marsh, which we found after a bit of searching, it crunched under our feet and no Anacamptis was seen. Some previously found species were also here, for example a Platanthera chlorantha.                                                                                                                                                            Platanthera chlorantha



Even the marsh at the next site, Krakvät, was completely dried up. But luckily there were still a lot of flowering Anacamptis here.

Here there would have been water between the tufts of grass. Now it looked almost like pictures from a desert area.

Below are four pictures of Anacamptis palustris and a last picture that shows Platanthera bifolia subsp. bifolia which also was found in large numbers here.
Anyone who has seen Anacamptis palustris in the Mediterranean area is probably wondering if it is the same species as here at Gotland. Here they usually are no more than half of the high than the plants there. Anyhow, it is considered to be the same species.

Now our excursions were over, for this time, maybe one should add, because who knows what can happen another year.
Some of us chose to make our way home via Ekstakusten, a coastal strip on the west side where the road practically follows the water's edge for a few kilometers. This is an experience in good weather and can be highly recommended.

View from Ekstakusten. In the horizon you can see Lilla Karlsö.

Many can certainly attest that Gotland is worth a visit. The above view I don't think you can find anywhere else so I couldn't resist including it here. A view from our road from Ekstakusten up towards the main road.

To the top


Day 6 (18 juni 2022)  Day of return journey

The ferry back to Oskarshamn would not leave until the afternoon. We therefore had plenty of time to look at other parts of Gotland. Everyone now chose what suited them. We ourselves chose to look a little closer at Visby and the immediate surroundings.


The old wall around Visby is an impressive building.


A trip out to Högklinten can make you gasp when you get close to the edge. Here there is nothing to see at the horizon. However, some are more daring than others (picture 2). Picture 3: View towards Visby and the harbour. Picture 4: Coffee in Fridhem's Kaffestuga in a lovely garden setting. Popular place! Picture 5: Cormorants resting right next to the ferry port.

But finally the ferry arrived and our Gotland stay was over. We are left with memories of a wonderful week on this island that has so much to offer. For our group it was Gotland's orchids that we had in focus and it must be said that we succeeded well in this. Of Gotland's 40 species, we collected 27 different orchids + some hybrids and color variants in our five days.
It was therefore a satisfied group that set course for Oskarshamn.

Orchids found:
Svedish name              English name                                           Latin name                                             Comments
Göknycklar                     Green-winged Orchid                               Anacamptis morio                                    Faded
Kärrnycklar                     Lax-flowered Orchid 
                                Anacamptis palustris
Salepsrot                        Pyramidal Orchid                                      
Anacamptis pyramidalis
Storsyssla                      Large White Helleborine                           
Cephalanthera damasonium
Svärdsyssla                   Sword-leaved Helleborine               
           Cephalanthera longifolia
Rödsyssla                       Red Helleborine                                       Cephalanthera rubra
Skogsnycklar                  Common Spotted Orchid               
           Dactylorhiza fuchsii
Ängsnycklar                    Early Marsh Orchid
                                   Dactylorhiza incarnata
Blodnycklar                     Flecked Marsh Orchid
                              Dactylorhiza incarnata ssp. cruenta
Baltnycklar                      Western Marsh Orchid
                              Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. baltica
Gotlandsnycklar                                                                                Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. elatior
Vaxnycklar                                                                                        Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. ochroleuca
Sumpnycklar                   Traunsteiner’s Orchid                    
           Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. traunsteineri
Adam & Eva                    Elder-flowered Marsh Orchid
                    Dactylorhiza sambucina                        Faded
Purpurknipprot                Dark-red helleborine                                  Epipactis atrorubens                             Buds only
Kärrknipprot                    Marsh Helleborine
                                     Epipactis palustris                                  Buds only
Brudsporre                      Chalk Fragrant Orchid
                               Gymnadenia conopsea
Krutbrännare                   Burnt Orchid                                       
       Neotinea ustulata
Nästrot                            Bird’s Nest Orchid                   
                     Neottia nidus-avis
Tvåblad                          Common Twayblade                                   Neottia ovata
Flugblomster                   Fly Orchid                                                   Ophrys insectifera
St. Pers nycklar               Early Purple Orchid                                  
 Orchis mascula
Johannesnycklar             Military Orchid                                            Orchis militaris
Alpnycklar                       Spitzel’s Orchid                                         
 Orchis spitzelii
Ängsnattviol (vanlig)       Lesser Butterfly Orchid
                                Platanthera bifolia ssp. bifolia
Skogsnattviol                                                                                      Platanthera bifolia ssp. latiflora
Grönvit nattviol               
 Greater Butterfly Orchid                              Platanthera chlorantha

Cephalanthera longifolia x rubra = Cephalanthera x otto-hechtii
Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. elatior x fuchsii (?)
Platanthera bifolia ssp. latiflora x chlorantha

To the top

English name                                       Latin name
Bird’s Nest Orchid                                  Neottia nidus-avis
Burnt Orchid                                           Neotinea ustulata
Chalk Fragrant Orchid                           Gymnadenia conopsea
Common Spotted Orchid                       Dactylorhiza fuchsia
Common Twayblade                              Neottia ovata
Dark-red helleborine                              Epipactis atrorubens                     Buds only
Early Marsh Orchid                                Dactylorhiza incarnata
Early Purple Orchid                                Orchis mascula
Elder-flowered Marsh Orchid                 Dactylorhiza sambucina                Faded
Flecked Marsh Orchid                            Dactylorhiza incarnata ssp. cruenta
Fly Orchid                                               Ophrys insectifera
Greater Butterfly Orchid                          Platanthera chlorantha
Green-winged Orchid                              Anacamptis morio                           Faded
Large White Helleborine                         Cephalanthera damasonium
Lax-flowered Orchid                                Anacamptis palustris
Lesser Butterfly Orchid                           Platanthera bifolia ssp. bifolia
Marsh Helleborine                                   Epipactis palustris                           Buds only
Military Orchid                                         Orchis militaris
Pyramidal Orchid                                    Anacamptis pyramidalis
Red Helleborine                                      Cephalanthera rubra
Spitzel’s Orchid                                       Orchis spitzelii
Sword-leaved Helleborine                       Cephalanthera longifolia
Traunsteiner’s Orchid                              Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. traunsteineri
Western Marsh Orchid                            Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. baltica
                                                                Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. elatior
                                                                Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. ochroleuca
                                                                Platanthera bifolia ssp. latiflora


To the top