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previously: Orchis fusca
A robust orchid up to 100 cm tall, with a rosette of three to five broad, shiny leaves and several narrow, sheathing stem leaves. There can be up to 50 large flowers in a fairly dense spike. The sepals and upper petals form a broad hood, coloured by dense parallel lines and flecks of dark reddish-brown, which forms the 'Lady's bonnet'. The broad, three-lobed lip is shaped like a little figure in a crinoline, the two narrow side lobes forming the 'arms', and the broad central lobe divided into two slightly rounded, wavy-edged lobes, sometimes with a median tooth. The lip is white or pale pink, with a central cluster of crimson spots, each formed by a minute bump crowned with coloured hairs. There is a slim, pink spur. Flowers with unmarked lips are not uncommon, and there are records of completely white flowers alb , peloric flowers with all three petals shaped like lips, and of inverted flowers with the lip uppermost.
Both the Military Orchid and Monkey Orchid bear a superficial resemblance to this species, but in each case the lip shape is diagnostic.
The hybrid with Man Orchid, recorded in Kent in 1998, was new to the British Isles.
Found in open woodland of Beech, Ash or Hazel, rarely in open grassland, on shallow chalk or limestone soils. It tends to grow in bare ground on fairly steep slopes, often close to Yew trees. It can sometimes reappear in spectacular numbers following woodland coppicing, or the felling of trees, having remained in a vegetative, non-flowering state for many years.
The commonest pollinator is the small digger wasp Odynerus parietus and it is possible that bees may also be involved in pollination. However, seed-set is poor at only 3-10%.
Damage by slugs and deer, particularly the introduced Muntjac, can be extensive, while illegal picking and uprooting of plants is still a risk.
Kent remains the most important centre of the British population, with over 100 known sites in the north and east of the county. It was rediscovered in Oxfordshire in 1961; a second site found in 1999 may be an introduction. It was found recently in the Avon Gorge in Somerset (1990) and north Hampshire (2003). It last flowered in Surrey in 1959 and in Sussex in 1981.
Height: up to 100cm
No. of flowers: up to 50
This is a link to BritainsOrchids
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