Neottia ovata plus Cantharis rufipes beetle

  • Dr Henry Oakeley
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Neottia ovata Bluff & Fingerh. Orchidaceae, previously Listera ovata, Twayblade. Distribution: Europe and North America. The Cantharis rufipes beetle is the pollinator and can be seen with pollinia on its head. This rather dull European orchid was, for 200 years, named after Dr Martin Lister FRCP FRS (1639–1712), physician to Queen Anne, as Listera ovata. It first appeared as Ophris (Fuchs, 1542), then as Bifolium (Dodoens, 1554, who classed it with Neottia nidus-avis), then Ophrys ovata (Linnaeus, 1753) followed by Listera ovata (Brown, 1813). Bluff and Fingerhuth called it Neottia in 1838, but it remained as Listera until recently when taxonomists agreed with Dodoens and accepted it as Neottia ovata. Martin Lister was born in Buckinghamshire, gained an arts degree at St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1658, and then an MA in 1662. He studied medicine, travelling in France until 1670, and on his return set up practice in York. He was much involved with natural history and antiquities, and was elected FRS in November 1671. His Historiae conchyliorum, published in 1685 was regarded as opening a new era in the science of conchology. He became physician to Queen Anne, who reigned 1702–14, in 1709. This orchid is found throughout northern Europe and Asia, and in North America (on an island in Lake Huron, Ontario). It was used for treating wounds and ruptures (Lyte, 1578 Fuchs, 1551 Gerard, 1633) but does not appear in modern medical herbals and has no medicinal value. (Oakeley, 2012). Photographed in the Medicinal Garden of the Royal College of Physicians, London.


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