Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae
Orchis Olbiensis is very similar in appearance to Orchis mascula but is generally a taller and more spindly-looking. It grows to around 50cm tall and has a basal rosette of leaves which are narrow and pointed and are sometimes spotted with dark brown. The upper part of the stem is flushed deep purple. The inflorescence is lax and carries between 20-30 deep purple flowers. The lip is shallowly lobed and has a white centre spotted with red.
Orchis olbiensis is localised but widespread in Portugal, Spain and southern France. It is also recorded in North Africa.
It is tolerant of a number of habitats and substrates but grows at its best on limestone.
In the Mediterranean countries Orchis olbiensis flowers very early - certainly by mid-March.
The photographs on this page were taken in the Algarve region of Portugal, high up in the mountains between Monchique and Foia in early April. From early March they occur in vast numbers on top of the famous limestone cliff at Rocha da Pena which is in the centre of the Algarve.
The genus name Orchis means 'testacles', a reference to the twin tubers of orchids in this genus. The specific epithet olbiensis means 'of or from Olbia' (now known as the Isles d'Hyères) in southern France.
The Plant List
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...