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Frog Orchid
Dactylorhiza viridis

Classified as Vulnerable, the Frog Orchid is in steep decline in Britain and has been lost altogether from many of its former sites due to habitat loss and destruction. This curious little plant favours short lime-rich to neutral grassland, and its somewhat drab appearance can make it difficult to spot. This orchid varies in colour from green to reddish-purple and is said to resemble a frog - a rather fanciful idea but fun nevertheless. Frog Orchid was once plentiful in boggy grassland, but land drainage has destroyed most of the old sites. Today some of the best places to look for Frog Orchids are in abandoned quarries, on limestone pavements, and in coastal short-sward grasslands, although they can still be found in some upland flushes. The flowering time is from late May to the end of August, but the peak is usually from mid June to mid July. Dactylorhiza viridis is widespread but localised throughout Britain. Elsewhere in Europe the Frog Orchid is recorded as far north as Iceland, and its range extends to Italy in the south.

Distribution Map Key Features
distribution map

Records for the Frog Orchid from BSBI are shown on the map with most recent in front. (Hover the mouse over the small map to expand it.)

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

Plant: usually 5 to 15cm tall but occasionally to 25cm, mostly greenish-yellow but some plants have dark reddish-brown stems getting darker towards the tip. There are one or two brownish sheaths at the base of the plant.
Leaves: the basal leaves, which form a rosette, appear in the autumn and they over-winter. There are 3 to 5 strap-shaped leaves on the flower stem and, towards the top, several other narrow sheath-like leaves.
Bracts: green, washed purple.
Flowers: larger plants may have up to 50 flowers held in a lax infloresence, but between 15 and 25 is more common. The flowers vary from green to purplish, and in some cases they are completely purple. The sepals and upper petals form a tight hood over the lip. The lip, which is often more green than the rest of the flower, has darker purple margins. The tip of the lip is divided into two lobes, and sometimes there is a small notch in the gap between the lobes.

Image Gallery for Frog Orchid Dactylorhiza viridis

Pollination Taxonomy & Hybrids

The Frog Orchid flower produces nectar and is visited by a variety of small insects including wasps and beetles. Self-pollination is also possible, as is occasional vegetative reproduction.

Formerly Coeloglossum viride, the Frog Orchid was moved to the Dactylorhiza genus following genetic study which revealed that it was more closely related to the Spotted-orchids. The specific name viridis means 'green'.

The flowers appear in a range of colour variations from almost entirely green (more common in the north) through almost yellow to deep reddish purple. Despite these apparent variations only one variety has been named. Dactylorhiza viridis var. longibracteatum is a distinctly robust plant with markedly long bracts; it has been reported from some parts of Britain but is more common in mainland Europe.

The hybrid with the Common Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii - Dactylorhiza x mixtum - is rare but found in scattered locations; the hybrid with Heath Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza maculata - Dactylorhiza x conigerum - is also rare; and the hybrid with Northern Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza purpurella - Dactylorhiza x viridella - has been recorded in the Outer Hebrides and in County Durham. An occasional inter-generic hybrid with the various Fragrant-orchids (Gymnadenia species) also occurs: X Dactylodenia jacksonii has been reported quite widely in England.

Articles about Frog Orchid in JHOS