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Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea

The Lady Orchid maintains a stronghold in Kent, although a few isolated plants and small colonies have become established in other southern counties, notably in Oxfordshire. As its common name implies, the Lady Orchid is one of four British orchids with an anthropomorphic flower. Orchis purpurea favours woodland sites and normally flowers from early May through to early June.

Distribution Map
Key Features

Records for the Early-purple Orchid from BSBI are shown on the map with most recent in front
(hover mouse over map to expand)

CLICK HERE to visit the BSBI website page for updated data and maps with separated data for individual record periods

Plant: 20-50cm but can reach 90cm.
Leaves: 3-5 basal leaves (3.5-7cm wide; 17-21cm long) have a distinctive shiny green appearance and there are 2 upper leaves sheathing the stem that can have a purple tint.
Bracts: short membranous
Flowers: up to 90 flowers on a large spike (to 30cm), sepals and upper petals form a dark purple hood that on closer inspection has a green base with variable amounts of purple staining. Lip is white or pale pink with darker purple spots and edges. The spur points downwards and is half the length of the ovary. The lobes create the "lady" caricature with two narrow "arms" and two larger central lobes that together form a "skirt". Usually there is a small tooth between these lobes.

Image Gallery for Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea


Taxonomy & Hybrids


Articles about Lady Orchid in JHOS

David Johnson (2012 )Herbivore Pressure on Orchid Populations – Nippers Re-visited. JHOS 9: 14-15
Mike Gasson (2012) Lost Ladies – Does It Matter? JHOS 9: 15-17

Alfred Gay (2013) Further Notes on Orchis purpurea Herbivory and Conservation. JHOS 10: 12-13