MONKEY ORCHID

Orchis simia

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]

month8may month8jun month8june

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8bicolour
 
flower
flower8purple
 
flower
flower8white
 
inner
inner8purple
 
morph
morph8zygo
 
petals
petalsZ5
 
type
typeZclustered
 
type
typeZspurred
stout
stem
stem8round
 
smell
smell8vanill
vanilla
rarity
rarityZrare
 

Goring Gap, Nr Reading. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
Shorter than either of the similar Lady Orchid (100cm) or Military Orchid (60cm) Monkey Orchid grows to 30cm maximum (between 10 - 30cm).


June, Near Gourdon, Lot region of France. Photo: © Kelly Finney
Has a shorter flower spike than that of Military Orchid. Lanceolate leaves long in comparison to flower height.


June, Near Gourdon, Lot region of France. Photo: © Kelly Finney
The white lip with short dark-purple hairs like those of Military Orchid has two thin arms and two thin legs with a shorter third leg or tail between them (hence the moniker 'monkey'). All 'limbs' are coloured mauve, contorted into curvy shapes and cylindrical/wiry (rather than flat as in the short fat 'legs' of Military Orchid).


2nd May 2009, Lot Valley, France. Photo: © Hester Coley
Like both Military Orchid and Lady Orchid, the hood (consisting of three sepals and petals) curves upwards at the extremities and is long (longer than that of Military Orchid). The stubbily short pinkish-white spur can be seen on the two flowers upper and upper-right.


2nd May 2009, Lot Valley, France. Photo: © Hester Coley
All 'limbs', 'legs' and 'arms' of the monkey, are long, narrow and contorted, curling forwards.


2nd May 2009, Lot Valley, France. Photo: © Hester Coley
Like Military Orchid the 'body' has pink/mauve coloured dots from which short darker hairs protrude. The 'body' is narrower than that of Military Orchid (and much narrower than the fat stumpy body of Lady Orchid). There is a longish narrow dangly thing (median tooth) hanging between its 'legs'.


Not to be confused with : Monkey Puzzle Tree [aka Chile Pine] (Araucaria araucana) nor with Monkeyflowers such as Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) [plants with similar names belonging to differing families].

Easily mistaken for : Lady Orchid and Military Orchid, which can be distinguished from each other by the shape of the lip (with body and 'limbs'). [All three have longish hoods which curve upwards at the end].

Hybridises with :

  • Lady Orchid (Orchis purpurea) to produce Orchis × angusticruris which was found in Oxfordshire in one hectad in 2006 but hasn't since been seen.
  • Man Orchid (Orchis anthropophora) to produce Orchis × bergonii which was found in one site in Kent in 1985.
  • Military Orchid (Orchis militaris) to produce Orchis × beyrichii which occurred up until 1850's in the mid-Thames valley.
So, all in all, there are no hybrids still extant in the UK. No relation to : Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) [a plant with similar name].

Although some or all the photographs above were taken in France, this Orchid does grow in the UK too. Un-like all other orchids, the flowers in the flowering-spike open from the top of the spike first before working their way downwards, giving it an unkempt appearance.

Likes to grow in more open places than either Military Orchid or Lady Orchid, on well-drained chalky grassland soils facing south in sunny positions. Or on the edges of woodland. It smells of vanilla as does Military Orchid. The spur at the rear of the flower is stubby and stout.

It is classed as 'Vulnerable' in the W&C Act Schedule 8.

The samples growing in Kent are darker-flowered and significantly more robust and taller than those in Oxfordshire. Grows in a more open habitat than either Military Orchid or Lady Orchid on chalky and well-drained soils on the side of hills/valleys facing south. Also in woodlands.


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Orchis
(Orchids)

MONKEY ORCHID

Orchis simia

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]