MILITARY ORCHID

Orchis militaris

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]

month8may month8jun month8june

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8bicolour
 
flower
flower8purple flower8mauve
 
flower
flower8white
 
inner
inner8white
 
morph
morph8zygo
 
petals
petalsZ5
 
type
typeZspiked
 
type
typeZspurred
 
stem
stem8round
 
smell
smell8vanilla
vanilla
rarity
rarityZrare
 

Homefield Wood, Bucks, Cotswolds. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
A quite robust orchid between 20 to 60cm high with 4-5 broad lanceolate basal leaves which are fairly short compared to the rest of the plant.


June, Near Gourdon, Lot region of France Photo: © Kelly Finney
Short spike of about 30 large flowers.


June, Near Gourdon, Lot region of France Photo: © Kelly Finney
Apart from the shape of the lips. it is similar to both Lady Orchid and to Monkey Orchid. Sepals and petals form an extended and pointed hood likened to a soldiers helmet, but one which is pale on the outside and marked with darker purple or green parallel lines inside. The most conspicuous characteristic is the turned-up extremities of the upper hood on mature specimens.


Homefield Wood, Bucks, Cotswolds. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
The upper petal and two sepals comprise the hood which is long and pointed with up-turned points. The lip is in the shape of a man with short fat stubby legs and thin arms in a purple uniform with raised darker-purple buttons on: a military man. The darker purple lines and 'buttons' have short darker-purple hairs coming out of them.


June, Near Gourdon, Lot region of France Photo: © Kelly Finney
The flowers 'stalks' (actually ovaries) have the appearance of twisted twine. The hood is pale pink on the outside and a darker shade of lilac-rose with darker stripes on the inside.


16th May 2009, Lot Valley, France. Photo: © Hester Coley
The pinkish lip is long and simianpoid in shape, with long thin arms, a long body and two short fat legs between which is a short thin dangly bit (the median tooth).


Homefield Wood, Bucks, Cotswolds. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
There are two rows of purple spots down the body out of which short hairs grow. These being the 'buttons' of the 'military uniform', its namesake.


16th May 2009, Lot Valley, France. Photo: © Hester Coley
The man wearing his military uniform. The 'hood' has perhaps six curled-up triangular 'teeth'.


Easily mistaken for : Lady Orchid and Monkey Orchid which both have similar flowers, but the distinction is mainly by the shape of the lips (although the shape of the lips is very variable in the case of Military Orchid, the limbs being drawn as bent and twisted in some illustrations, but not in any sets of photos your Author has espied). Indeed, it is Monkey Orchid that seems to have curled limbs. In Lady Orchid the hood is a deep beetroot purple on the outside, rather than pale as in Military Orchid.

Hybridizes with : Monkey Orchid (Orchis simia) to produce Orchis × beyrichii which occurred up until the 1850's in the mid-Thames valley but which has no known presence in the UK now.

Although many of the photographs above were taken in France, this Orchid does grow in the UK too. Occurs in chalk grasslands or along the edges of broad-leaved woodland and in sunny clearings in deciduous forests as well as in scrub amongst Brambles or Dog's Mercury.

A rare plant classed as 'Vulnerable' on the W&C Act Schedule 8. It was thought to be extinct in the UK after 1930 until it was discovered lurking in Buckinghamshire in 1947. A larger population was discovered hiding in Suffolk in 1954. Since then two more populations have been found, skulking in Oxfordshire. It has a vanilla aroma.

A flower in Sussex was found with 115 flowers, well above the usual approx 30 flowers.


  Orchis militaris  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Orchidaceae  

Distribution
 family8Orchid family8Orchidaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Orchis
Orchis
(Orchids)

MILITARY ORCHID

Orchis militaris

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]