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Musk Orchid
Herminium monorchis

Classified as Nationally Scarce, this orchid is now confined to a few sites in southern England. Its diminutive size and its greenish colour, which blends perfectly with the surrounding vegetation, means that it is frequently overlooked despite appearing in large numbers in favoured spots. Musk Orchid grows exclusively on short grass on limestone, and the extensive destruction and subsequent loss of this type of habitat means that it has disappeared from around 70% of its traditional range. Musk Orchid flowers from early June to early July, but its appearance is erratic and the number of plants are subject to fluctuation from year to year. The range of Herminium monorchis on mainland Europe is mainly northern and eastern, and it is widespread in Scandinavia and Finland and in the Baltic States; there is, however, an isolated population in central Spain.

Distribution Map Key Features
distribution map

Records for the Musk 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: 2 to 30cm in height; stem dark green or yellow-green and distinctly ridged at the tip.
Leaves: 2 to 4 keeled green basal leaves with up to 3 small, bract-like leaves higher up the stem.
Bracts: green with pointed tips.
Flowers: up to 70 held in a one-sided cylindrical inflorescence. The individual flowers are very small and pale yellow. The sepals, petals and lip face forward giving the appearance of a ragged-edged bell. The lip has an elongated central lobe and shorter lateral lobes.

Image Gallery for Musk Orchid Herminium monorchis

Pollination Taxonomy & Hybrids

The flowers are pollinated by a variety of small insects including gnats and beetles. Opinions differ on whether or not self-pollination takes place. Musk Orchid spreads vegetatively, and this accounts for the plant's ability to form large colonies.

The specific name monorchis means 'single testicle' and refers to the single tuber from which the flower stems emerge.

There are no known hybrids, subspecies or varieties.

Articles about Musk Orchid in JHOS