|Orchis mascula - Early Purple Orchid
|Orchis anthropophora - Man Orchid
|Dactylorhiza fuchsii - Common Spotted Orchid
|Anacamptis pyramidalis - Pyrimidal Orchid
|Cephalanthera damasonium - White Helleborine
|Orchid Gallery - British orchids
Click images for full size
|Neottia ovata - Common Twayblade
|Ophrys apifera - Bee Orchid
|Submit your orchid photos to the Natural History Museum
and assist scientists study the impact of climate change!
|Gymnadenia conopsea - Common Fragrant Orchid
|Himantoglossum hircinum - Lizard Orchid
|Epipactis helleborine - Broad-leaved Helleborine
|Ophrys sphegodes - Early Spider Orchid
Often the Common Twayblade is found growing in dense shade which makes it harder to get a sharply
focused photograph (depending on what kind of camera you have) but at least some of the ones pictured
above were from a population growing in more open woodland/scrub - click images for full-size.
|Orchis purpurea - Lady Orchid
| The beautiful and stately Lady Orchid is
found in woodland, especially on thin and
well-drained chalky soils and prefers
beechwoods. Although sometimes found in
quite dense shade, it prefers more open
and well-lit areas, such as clearings. It
flowers less frequently when shaded and
may suddenly spring into flower where a
tree falls, opening up the canopy.
The flower resembles a lady in her dress,
complete with bonnet. The shape of the
'dress' or labellum (lower petal) is
surprisingly variable. The purple spots are
actually clusters or tufts of up to a dozen or
so glass-like glandular trichomes (hairs or
papillae) filled with purple liquid. These are
thought to be osmophores - glands which
release aromatic volatiles to attract
pollinators (small flies, bees and digger
wasps) although the flowers have no odour
that I have been able to detect.
This orchid is usually tall and may reach
about 80-100 cm (32 - 40 inches) in height.
This orchid is a long-lived perennial,
flowering repeatedly during its life span
(polycarpic) which may be 44 to 60 years.
Broad-leaved helleborine is found in deciduous woodland and in the more open areas on the edges of
woods. It favours the better-lit areas, such as along paths, tracks and roadsides, in glades, along the fringes
of woods, etc. It tends to grow in the vicinity of beech trees.
This extraordinary plant has the labellum (lower petal) modified to form a nectar cup. The nectar secreted
into the cup has been shown to contain a number of narcotic compounds which have been shown to daze
pollinating insects (such as bees, wasps (e.g. Dolichovespula) and hoverflies) which causes the insect to
stay in the vicinity of the spike for longer, which has been shown to increase pollination success.
A tall and stately orchid, individuals have been recorded at about 120 cm (1.2 m, about 48 inches) in height.
The Early Spider Orchid is a short-lived orchid. Most individuals only flower once and then die (they are
monocarpic) and so most live around 3 years, though occasional individuals may flower more than once and
live around ten years. A week later and this same individual had a second flower higher up, as the growing
stem continued elongating from the bud which is visible in these photos. This kind of growth, in which one
stem segment terminates growth (ending in a flower in this case) and then growth continues from a bud is
called sympodial growth and is also clearly seen in the Bee Orchid. Some orchids are monopodial - producing
a single leading shoot which puts out lateral branches as it grows. A mature Early Spider Orchid typically has
2 to 7 flowers, but up to 17 have been reported. However, the lower flowers rapidly fade as new flowers
appear higher up. Early Spider Orchids grow on calcareous grassland and have a preference for previously
disturbed soil which seems to aid the establishment of new colonies.
The Early Purple Orchid is highly variable in coloration, though the striking white and pink specimen shown above is
extremely unusual in having an all white labellum with a few purple spots. This specimen was also rather large with a
tall spike. Some Early Purple Orchids reach 25 inches or more in height (60-65 cm). (I found one which measured
half-way up my thigh). This orchid prefers calcareous soils, but can occur in a wide variety of habitats, from
woodland top open grassland.
The Man Orchid prefers open
well-drained grassland on chalk or
limestone, often at the foot of a slope.
Here they are seen growing on such
grassland but about half-way down a
This impressively tall specimen was
about a foot (12 inches or 30 cm) in
height with some terminal buds still to
open. Rarely man orchids may reach
twice this height.
It is not clear why the labellum of the
Man Orchid is the roughly humanoid
shape that it is (is it mimicry to induce
pseudocopulation?). The colour is said
to vary, though in this population, at
least, it is apparent that newly opened
flowers have a labellum with reddish
limbs which pale and whiten in more
mature or older flowers towards the
base of the spike.
|Platanthera chlorantha - Greater Butterfly-Orchid
The Fragrant Orchid can by divided into three closely
related interbreeding species: Gymnadenia
conopsea (Common or Chalk Fragrant Orchid),
Gymnadenia borealis (The Heath Fragrant Orchid)
and Gymnadenia densiflora (Marsh fragrant Orchid).
These species have subtle differences in morphology
and scent and telling them apart takes considerable
practice! However, they tend to prefer distinctly
different (though overlapping) habitats. The
specimens here are expected to be Gymnadenia
conopsea, and most of them show the classic key
feature: a squarish labellum (about as wide as long)
divided into 3 equal lobes. One, however, resembles
G. densiflora more closely - the labellum is wider than
long with an indistinct middle lobe and rather flared
like a ballroom gown. Can you see which one?
Above: a close-up of the clusters of purple
trichomes on the labellum.
Right: often in populations of Lady Orchid few plants
set fruit and in those that do it's often only a small
number of flowers that set fruit. Luckily, this individual
A closer look at Lady Orchid varieties