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Early purple orchid

(Orchis mascula)

Early purple orchid © Beth Newman/Plantlife

Early purple orchid © Beth Newman/Plantlife


Often arriving with the bluebell, the purple-pink flowers of this early orchid make a handsome sight in spring.

When first in bloom it has a wonderful scent, not dissimilar to lily-of-the-valley.

Distribution

The early purple orchid was once a common plant, found in a variety of habitats. Sadly, these have also been places where urban development and modern farming methods have taken their toll. Although still found at sites throughout the UK it is by no means as abundant as it once was.

Habitat

A wildflower that can adapt itself to a variety of habitats, early purple orchid can be found in meadows, woodland and often on roadside verges.

Best time to see

As its name suggests, this is one of the earliest orchids to bloom. Look out for its purple flowers between April and June.

Did you know?

The early purple orchid is the "long purple" of Ophelia's garland, as referred to by Gertrude in Shakespeare's Hamlet:

"Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples, that liberal shepards give a grosser name".