Early Purple Orchid

©Jim Higham

Early Purple Orchid

©Guy Edwardes/2020VISION

Early Purple Orchid

Scientific name: Orchis mascula
The Early Purple Orchid is one of the first orchids to pop up in spring. Look for its pinkish-purple flowers from April, when bluebells still carpet our woodland floors. Its leaves are dark green with dark spots.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 40cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to June

About

As its name suggests, the Early Purple Orchid is one of our earliest flowering orchids, appearing from April to June. It is often found in habitats with non-acidic soils, such as hedgerows, banks, ancient woodland and open grassland. The pinkish-purple flowers appear on a spike of medium height.

How to identify

The Early Purple Orchid can display up to 50 dark purple flowers, which are arranged in a dense, cone-shaped cluster on a tall spike. The lower lip of each flower has three lobes and the upper petals form a hood. The leaves of the Early Purple Orchid are glossy and dark green, with dark spots, and form a rosette on the ground; they appear from January onwards.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

The Early Purple Orchid gives off a strong and unpleasant smell once the flowers have been fertilised.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many grassland and woodland habitats sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife. Careful grazing with traditional breeds, hay-cutting at the right time, scrub clearance and coppicing are just some of the ways these habitats are kept in good condition. By volunteering for your local Trust you can help too, and you'll make new friends and learn new skills along the way.