Orchis mascula

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]  

month8apr month8april month8May month8jun month8june

smell8honey smell8tomcat

11th May 2005, Farleton Fell, Lancashire Photo: © RWD
Wide-ranging in height, from 10 to 60cm. There are three plants together here. Basal leaves number between 4-8 per plant, stem leaves fewer at 2-3.

11th May 2005, Farleton Fell, Lancashire Photo: © RWD
Between 20-50 purple flowers per spike.

17th April 2009,, Lot Valley, France. Photo: © Hester Coley
Both flowers and the upper part of the stem is coloured purple, the stem a darker shade.

15th May 2008, Warton Crag, Lancashire Photo: © Joy Ahmad
In woodland settings the flower spacing can be lax, as here. The lip is slightly folded backwards, has two side-lobes with crenated edges. The central lobe has a nick in the middle of the lower edge.

15th May 2008, Warton Crag, Lancashire Photo: © Joy Ahmad
The spur behind the hood is stout, curves upwards and is rounded at the end. The sepals spread upwards like wings.

15th May 2008, Warton Crag, Lancashire Photo: © Joy Ahmad
The whitey-pink form, or all-white form (not shown), is not infrequent - sometimes forming a high percentage of the specimens of some populations, such as those on the Burren in Eire, but have not been found in Scotland. The stem is usually green throughout, rather than purple at the top.

15th May 2008, Warton Crag, Lancashire
Unusual pink flowered plants are less common that white ones. Some pink flowered plants are mottled with purple spots and found in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Kent & Sussex.
Photo: © Joy Ahmad

15th May 2008, Warton Crag, Lancashire Photo: © Joy Ahmad
Basal leaves are purple-blotched, combined with the green chlorophyll the blotches look almost black. The number and size of the blotches is highly variable between plants, some having none.

Distinguishing Feature : Leaves (which are all basal) are usually blotched, but sometimes not, with dark purple or black splodges.

Not to be semantically confused with : Early Spider-Orchid (Ophrys sphegodes), another orchid.

Very short specimens can be visually confused with : Green-Winged Orchid (Anacamptis morio), but they have green veins on the sides of the hood.

Stunted and dark-purple coloured specimens have some similarities to : Green-Winged Orchid but for the lack of green veins on the outside of the lateral sepals and for the dark-purple splodges on the leaves.

Hybridizes with : Green-Winged Orchid (Anacamptis morio) but seldom occurs.

The flowers are usually some shade of deep purple, but occasionally white or pink forms are to be found.

The starchy tubers are one of the most concentrated plant foods known and were eaten by sailors on long sea voyages. Before the advent of coffee the plant was also used to brew a popular aphrodisiac drink called salep, which was also, it is said, a refreshing tonic.

Before coffee houses were introduced, Salop houses sold salop, an aphrodisiacal drink made from the powdered root.

The flowers smell of honey when fresh, but after pollination smell of the urine of tom-cat, perhaps as a sign to visiting insects that pollination has already taken place and not to bother it any more.

  Orchis mascula  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Orchidaceae  

family8Orchid family8Orchidacaea
 BSBI maps


Orchis mascula

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]  

WildFlowerFinder Homepage