Here, we are studying the impact of salep harvesting on natural populations of orchids in Epirus, NW Greece

Greece is highly diverse in orchids, with Epirus (northwest Greece) being among the most species-rich areas, hosting ca. 70 taxa. The most commonly harvested species for salep in Greece are Anacamptis morio, Dactylorhiza sambucina, D. saccifera and Orchis mascula. Other orchids, mainly from the genera Anacamptis and Orchis are also mentioned from older references. A large fraction of the salep collected in Greece and neighbouring countries, finds its way to the international market mainly through the Netherlands, Northern Cyprus, and especially Germany, which is by far the largest trader in medicinal and aromatic plants. However, there has been a revived demand for authentic salep, along with other forest food plants and “Non-Timber Forest Products” (NTFP) in general, as part of modern people’s desire to be reconnected with Nature, with traditional culture and with their own locality. Ironically, this yearning for reconnection with Nature may actually drive local extirpation for many vulnerable species, including orchids because of its potential magnitude. The unregulated and undocumented orchid harvest and trade relating to salep is expected to be very large and to put pressure on populations in the wild. To that end, research into trade dynamics and the impacts of harvest are very important. Existing studies outline the threat to orchid populations, but there has been very little examination of populations themselves.


salep vendor in old Athens

Background story

Wild orchids are protected both nationally and globally, although many species are still harvested for their healing/medicinal properties. In recent years, significant problems have been reported with regard to the conservation of natural orchid populations due to the oversupply of tubers to meet the particularly high demand for ales and dodges. What is unknown to the general public, however, is the relationship of orchids to traditional salep and ice creams dondurma (Turkey) and kaimaki (Greece): all of them are produced from dried, ground tubers of orchid species.
dactylorhiza sambucina

Project Overview

With the use and trade of orchids for the production of the aforementioned products and in Greece, research is being carried out from May 2018 at the Ecology Laboratory of the Department of Biological Applications and Technologies of the University of Ioannina.


The northern part of Pindos Mountain Range, a region with high geomorphological heterogeneity (e.g., limestone rocks, screes, ultramafic outcrops) constitutes our wider study area. It also has a wide variety of habitats.




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