Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae
Although still rather common and widespread in the Mediterranean-Atlantic area of Europe (this specimen was photographed in Southern Portugal) the Man orchid is now extremely rare in the UK. Until recently this orchid was called Aceras anthropophorum, but recent molecular study has revealed the closeness of its relationship with members of the genus Orchis and has resulted in it being moved and now referred to as Orchis anthrophora.
The name Man Orchid refers to the human shaped lip of the flower which, together with the sepals and petals which form a hood above the lip, gives the flower a strong resemblance to a small human figure. The plants grow to around 40cm tall and there are 5-10 basal leaves which are unmarked, but clearly veined. The colour of the flowers varies from greenish-bronze to pale yellow and are marked with bronze.
Widespread and common in the Mediterranean-Atlantic region of Europe and found as far north as the UK and Germany and east to central Europe. Becoming rare in the north and east.
Short alkaline grasslands in full sun or mid-shade. Also found along the edges of open woodland and scrubby areas.
From the end of March (southern Europe) to the end of June (further north)
The photographs shown on this page were taken in the Algarve in Portugal in early May. We have also photographed this wonderful orchid in Crete, the Gargano Peninsula in Italy and in the Lot Valley in France.
The Plant List
Sue Parker (2014) Wild Orchids of the Algarve - when, where and how to find them; 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
Fielding, Turland and Mathew (2005) Flowers of Crete; Kew
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...