Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae
The plant is robust and can grow as tall as 60cm tall. Like Orchis mascula, the upper part of the flower stem is washed brownish-red. It is the leaves and flowers that set it apart: lacking the large dark oblong spots of Orchis mascula, the leaves of Orchis ovalis are more rounded at the tips and are washed with numerous rust-coloured small spots particularly towards the base. The sepals and petals of Orchis ovalis are long and pointed. The dorsal sepal and petals form a bell-shaped hood over the lip of the flower. The lip of the flower is three-lobed and the margin has a scalloped and fluted appearance.
The distribution of this orchid is still being debated due to confusion with other species. It flowers at the same time and has much in common with Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula. Accurate identification and confirmation of distribution is further hampered by the occasional and isolated occurrence of this elusive but beautiful orchid. It is mainly recorded from central Europe in countries which include Slovenia, Poland, Romania and Austria. Western and southern plants show a greater similarity with Orchis mascula, but in central and eastern Europe Orchis ovalis is thought to replace Orchis mascula entirely.
Tolerant of both alkaline and slightly acidic soils this species is montane.
Orchis ovalis flowers from the end of April until the beginning of July. Unlike the Early Purple Orchid it grows high up in mountains, and the higher up they are the later they flower.
The specimens shown on this page were photographed in the Julian Alps in Slovenia in mid-to-late June at an altitude of around 700 metres.
The Plant List
Sue Parker (2014) Wild Orchids of the Algarve - where, when 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
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...