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Lizard Orchid

Himantoglossum hircinum

Lizard Orchid is usually rare in the UK but in the right location it can be found in great numbers. It grows up to a metre in height but can nonetheless be difficult to spot when growing in long grass on roadside verges.

How to spot it

The long, tail-like lip is usually spiralled and dotted with pink or purple in the centre. Lizard Orchid’s flowers have a rather foul smell, said to be similar to the smell of goats.

How is it distributed?

The largest British population of the Lizard Orchid is amongst the golf links and sand dunes at Sandwich Bay in Kent, where there are reportedly many hundred plants. A large population can be found in East Anglia, along the stretch of the Devil’s Dyke that runs through Newmarket Racecourse.

Where to spot it

Lizard Orchid grows on calcareous soils and likes sunny positions on the edges of open woodland and on roadside verges. This orchid also grows in dry meadows, rocky areas, and open woods.

Things you might not know

  • The scientific name (Himantoglossum) derives from the Greek for ‘strap-tongue’ Hircinum is Latin for ‘goat-like’, and refers to the strong, foul smell of the flowers.
  • In most European languages it is known as ‘(Billy or male) goat orchid’.
  • The Lizard Orchid is pollinated by insects particularly bees.

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