Serapias lingua - Tongue Orchid

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

Serapias lingua - Tongue Orchid

Arguably the most attractive of the rather curious-looking species of Tongue Orchids, probably due to its attractive pink colouration, Serapias lingua occurs throughout much of Europe in both Atlantic and Mediterranean countries.


The plants can grow up to 50cm in height and each stem normally carries around 6 flowers. Tongue orchids, often found growing alongside each other, are confusing to identify, but Serapias lingua is characterised by a dark red spot in the 'throat' of the flower which is clearly visible in the photograph below.


Serapias lingua is found in the southern Atlantic and Mediterranean regions of Europe. Countries include France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and east to the Agean islands and Crete.

A closeup picture of Serapias lingua


Serapias lingua tolerates a number of habitats and can be found in short alkaline or mildly acidic grassland, the garrigue and scrub. It also occurs in damp, marshy meadows and fields.

A monstrous form of Serapias lingua

Occasionally monstrous forms of tongue orchids can appear - this one, found in Crete, had a double lip.

The specimens above were photographed in the Gargano Peninsula area of Italy (top) and in the Lot Valley in France (bottom).

Flowering times

March to the end of April

Reference sources

The Plant List

Sue Parker (2014) Wild Orchids of the Algarve - how , when and where 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

Les Orchidees de France, Belgique et Luxemborg; Parthenope Collection

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...