Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae
This orchid is named after the Roman word for Portugal - Lusitania, which is where it is most common. Originally classified as Epipactis helleborine it is now thought that two species occur in the region, Epipactis lusitanica and Epipactis tremolsii. The two are very difficult to tell apart, and it is almost certain that intermediates between the two species occur frequently. Both species have adapted to grow in much drier conditions than Broad-leaved Helleborine, which is now not thought to occur in the Algarve at all.
The plant usually produces a single stem which can grow up to 50cm in height. The lower leaves are oval and have wavy margins while the upper ones are narrower and bract-like. The inflorescence is lax and carries from 5-30 flowers that, unlike some other Epipactis species, open fully. The flowers vary in colour from pale greenish-pink to quite dark pink. The cup-like hypochile varies in colour from pale olive green to pale brown.
Epipactis lusitanica is found throughout Portugal and is particularly widespread, although localised, in the Algarve. It is also found in Spain, southern France and along the coastal plains of North Africa.
This orchid is found in open pine and Cork Oak woodlands.
Epipactis lusitanica flowers in April and May.
The specimens shown on this page were photographed in the Algarve in Portugal during early May.
The genus name Epipactis is an ancient Greek name of a plant said to be capable of curdling milk (perhaps a Hellebore). The type species of this genus is Epipactis helleborine, the species name of which means 'like a hellebore' - a reference to a physical resemblance in this instance. The specific epithet lusitanica means 'of Portugal'. (Lusitania was the ancient Roman name for Portugal.)
The Plant List
Sue Parker (2014) Wild Orchids of the Algarve - how, when and where to find them; First Nature
Sue Parker (2014) Wild Orchids of the Algarve; First Nature
Chris Thorogood and Simon Hiscock (2014) Field Guide to the Wildflowers of the Algarve; Kew Publishing
Pierre Delforge (2005) Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; A&C Black
If you found this information helpful, we are sure you would also like books on the Wild Orchids of Wales, of The Burren, and of the Algarve. Author-signed copies are available here...