Serapias cordigera - Heart-flowered Serapias

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae

Serapias cordigera - Heart-flowered Serapias

This is one of the more easily recognised species of Tongue Orchids that are widespread in the Mediterranean and Atlantic countries of southern Europe. The colour can vary from orange to deep red, but the distinguishing factor is the broad, heart-shaped lip from which the flower gets its common name.


Growing up to 25 cm in height this orchid appears singly or in small groups. At the base of the plant there are up to 9 pointed leaves with smaller bracts clasping the stem higher up. Each inflorescence carries up to 10 large flowers which have green-veined sepals and petals. The lip is broadly oval at the base and coated with dense dark hairs. There is dark veining running vertically downwards to the tip which is pointed. The flowers vary greatly in colour from dark red to pale orange.

Serapias cordigera - Heart-flowered Serapias, Portugal


Heart-flowered Tongue Orchid is localised and occurs in the Atlantic and Mediterranean regions of Europe. It is widespread in the Algarve region of Portugal and occurs in large numbers on the Gargano Peninsula in Italy where it grows on limestone pavement. It also grows east to Greece but is probably replaced by Serapias orientalis in the Aegean.

A dark-coloured example of Serapias cordigera


This orchid grows on damp and mildly acidic substrates but also tolerates calcareous substrates. It can be found in open woodland and on abandoned farmland and old olive groves.

The specimens above were photographed in Portugal on the Algarve in May and on the Gargano Peninsula in Italy in April..

Flowering times

April and May.


The genus name Serapias comes from the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis, while the specific epithet cordigera means 'wearing a heart'- obviously on its flower lip!

Reference sources

The Plant List

Chris Thorogood and Simon Hiscock (2014) Field Guide to the Wildflowers of the Algarve; Kew Publishing

Sue Parker (2014) Wild Orchids of the Algarve - how , when and where to find them; First Nature

Pierre Delforge (2005) Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; A&C Black

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