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The classic colour is magenta however occasionally white and pale pink flower spikes can be found. The leaves are are shiny with dark purple blotches. When first in bloom it has a wonderful scent, not dissimilar to Lily-of-the-valley tinged with blackcurrant but as the flowers fade, it starts to reek! As its name suggests, this is one of the first orchids to bloom, only the Early Spider-orchid flowers earlier.
It adapts to a variety of habitats and can be found in hay meadows, woodland and often on roadside verges. It occurs mostly on non-acidic soils, and is also found in ancient woodland (especially coppice), chalk downland, grassy banks, limestone pavements and cliff-top grassland. It is widely distributed across the UK and Ireland.
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 it is still found at sites throughout the UK it is by no means as abundant as it once was.
Early Purple Orchid, image by Beth Halski
Early Purple Orchid rosettes at Ranscombe
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