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. This is the type species of the Serapias genus.

Group of Tongue Orchids, Serapias lingua


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. The specimens shown above were photographed in the Gargano Peninsula area of Italy; the specimen shown below was found in the Lot Valley in France.

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.

Monstrous forms

Occasionally monstrous forms of tongue orchids can appear. The one shown above, found in Crete, had a double lip.

A monstrous form of Serapias lingua

Flowering times

March to the end of April.


The genus name Serapias comes from the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis, while the specific epithet lingua means 'tongue'.

Reference sources

The Plant List

Sue Parker (2023) Wild Orchids of the Algarve - where, when and how to find them; First Nature e-book (Amazon Kindle format)

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

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