Orchis purpurea

Orchis purpurea
Photo: Marco Kl├╝ber, 05/05/2005, near Huenfeld/Rhoen, Germany

Lady Orchid

Orchis purpurea is one of the biggest orchids in Europe, growing to a height of 30 to 90 cm. The foliage leaves are rather big and broad, light-green and unspotted. 3 to 5 leaves form a rosette at base, 1 to 3 leaves are sheathing the robust stem. The broad, cylindrical inflorescence carries 30 to 90 flowers. Petals and sepals form a tight and relatively small hood. The ovary of each flower is contorted, the spur is much shorter and bented downwards, the bracts are very thin. The big and broad labellum is deeply three-lobed with a middle lobe which is deeply divided into two secondary lobules separated by a tooth. The surface of the labellum is marked with papilla-like, purple spots with tiny hairs. The two pollinia are attached to separated sticky plates. The flowers are pollinated by insects.

Orchis purpurea
Photo: Holger Disse, 15/05/2005, near Dornburg/Thuringia, Germany

Taxonomic discussion

Orchis purpurea was first described by the British botanist William Hudson in Flora Anglica (1762). H.Kretzschmar et al. (2007) put Orchis purpurea in a section called orchis as part of the sub-genus Orchis, together with Orchis militaris or Orchis punctulata.

Orchis purpurea
Photo: Peter Zschunke, 21/05/2008, near Novis/Aveyron, France

White colour of flowers

The flowers of Orchis purpurea normally have a dark-red or red-brown hood, but the labellum is purple or light-red. There are some colour variants with very bright tones, described as “albida” (yellowish-white) or “pallidiflora” (light-purple). The “albiflora” variant with pure white flowers are quite rare. Habitats are mentioned in Germany and France. The photo from Dornburg/Saale shows a plant which still has retained some purplish color, especially in the hood.

Orchis purpurea
Photo: Peter Zschunke, 21/05/2008, near Novis/Aveyron, France

Habitat, bloom and distribution

Orchis purpurea is growing on dry grassland, often near forests, up to 1800 m. Bloom is from April to June. Orchis purpurea is found in Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Southeast Europe.