Frog orchid Dactylorhiza viridis

Status Amber - Vulnerable and Near-Threatened
Best Time to See June, July, August
Colour Purple, Green
Habitat Grassland

An orchid of unimproved, short grassland, preferring chalky soils.

Frog orchids are easily overlooked as the colours of its short flowering spike matches the grasses and wildflowers with which it grows. If you look carefully, you may find quite large populations, but, as with other orchids, flowering may vary from year to year.

How to spot it

The flowers are green, but often tinged with purple, red or brown and, as the name suggests, look like small frogs when you get up close. The flowering spike only grows to between 4 and 20 cm tall and varies considerably in size, carrying between 5 and 25 individual flowers. The plant has three to five dark green leaves, those at the base of the plant blunt, but the ones higher up the stem narrow and pointed.

Richard Mabey remarks that it is perhaps more like a diminutive twayblade (Neottia ovata) than a frog, or perhaps, a tadpole with its flattened head and long legs.

Where it grows

Frog orchids are locally frequent throughout Britain and Ireland. They are native to a range of limestone habitats such as calcareous short grasslands, vegetated clints in limestone pavement, roadsides and quarries in limestone areas.

Best time to see

In flower from June to August

How's it doing?

The frog orchid has declined considerably, particularly in central England and East Anglia. Many losses occurred before 1930, but have continued since then, largely due to habitat destruction and the ploughing and improvement of old pastures.

3 things you may not know

  • Frog orchids are faintly honey scented.
  • They can be found in Russia, Japan and China as well as in Europe.
  • The viride in its scientific name refers to the green colour of the flowers.