Lizard Orchid

Himantoglossum hircinum

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  3. Lizard Orchid

About

The large and impressive Lizard Orchid lives up to its name - the flowers have petals and sepals that form the head, and divided lips that look like the legs and long, twisting tail of a lizard! Rare and localised in its distribution, it can be seen on sunny chalk grasslands, sand dunes and in old quarries. It flowers between June and July and smells distinctively of goats.

How to identify

The flowers of the Lizard Orchid are pale and greenish, with delicate pink spots and stripes. Look for the long, curly frills that dangle down from the flower spike as the 'tail'. The spikes themselves are tall and stately and sometimes carry as many as 80 densely packed flowers. The oval leaves at the base of the plant soon wither.

Where to find it

Rare, only grows in the south-east of England.

Habitats

When to find it

  • July

How can people help

Areas of rare and unique wildlife, chalk grasslands have been likened to rainforest for the diversity of species they hold. But they are being lost at an alarming rate due to changes in land use causing the decline of grazing: it's estimated that we've lost 80% of our chalk grassland over the last 60 years. The Wildlife Trusts manage many grassland nature reserves for the benefit of the rare wildlife they hold by using traditional management methods such as autumn grazing and scrub clearance. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from flower surveys to stockwatching.

Species information

Common name
Lizard Orchid
Latin name
Himantoglossum hircinum
Category
Wildflowers
Statistics
Height: up to 1m
Conservation status
Classified as Near Threatened in Britain on the Red Data List. Protected in the UK under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.