Early Purple Orchid is a
perennial plant of the UK, typically found growing in woodland, chalk grassland and damp areas, to a mature height of up to 40cm.
As the name suggests, the Early Purple Orchid is one of the first orchids to flower. Despite having flower spurs, which are usually provided to hold nectar for long-tongued pollinators, in the Early Purple Orchid these are without nectar. This type of spur is an instance of mimickry and has the effect of attracting pollinators without expending energy producing nectar. The Early Purple Orchid is distinguished from other orchids by its: flower colour, which is usually purple or magenta (but may be lilac or white); flower shape, with three broad distinct lobes to the lower lip and long, curved and upturned spurs; flower spots, which are either sparse or absent; flower scent, which is initially fragrant, but becomes unpleasant as the flower ages; and the presence of glossy, spotted leaves (although spots are sometimes absent).
Botanic classification and naming: Early Purple Orchid is a member of the Orchid (Orchidaceae) family. The genus name
'Orchis' identifies the plant as a Orchid with paired tubers resembling 'testicles' and its species name 'mascula' means 'male (testicular tubers)'.
Concerns: Orchids, like wild flowers in general, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) from being removed from the wild. Rare orchids such as the Early Spider Orchid, Monkey Orchid and Lady's Slipper Orchid are additionally protected from picking and damage. The Early Purple Orchid is found widely distributed across the UK.
Benefits: Early Purple Orchid does not produce nectar but attracts pollinating insects (such as Bumble bees, wasps, butterflies and beetles), by its bright flowers, scent and mimicking flowers that produce nectar.
Benefits to wildlife are also indicated with orange icons in the plant profile bar at the top.