Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae
This orchid is both localised and rare - or is it just very difficult to spot? It is, after all, entirely greenish-yellow and blends in rather well with surrounding plants.
The scientific name diphylla means 'two leaves' - they are usually to be found part way up the stems of the plants, although in some examples there are several pairs, some close to the base of the plants, and others higher up the stems.
The flowers are tiny and also greenish yellow. Each spike can carry up to 45 of these tiny bell-shaped flowers, which appear in the very early spring - from January through to the end of April at the latest.
Gennaria diphylla is most commonly found in the central and western Mediterranean regions and becomes more scarce towards the east. It is also present on Madieira and on some of the Canary Isles.
This orchid can be found on acid substrates but also tolerates a degree of alkalinity. Gennaria diphylla grows in pine woodlands, under laurel, and in the barrocal where they can sometimes be seen growing in between rocks in very stony ground.
January and February are the best times to see this plant with fresh flowers. Although the plants persist until the beginning of April in some places, the flowers have long since been replaced by seeds.
The flowers on this page were found on a bank close to Barragem da Bravura in the Algarve region of Portugal.
The Plant List
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...