Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae
Serapias parviflora is a slender and somewhat spindly-looking plant which grows to around 30cm tall. If you find one you will probably find several although the plants grow singly rather than in close groups or clumps. The plant has 5 or 6 narrow pointed leaves which grow from the base, and several small bract-like leaves along the upper stem. The inflorescence is lax and carries between 3 - 12 tiny flowers which are usually orange in colour with paler, yellow specimens occuring in some places.
This is predominantly a Mediterranean species. It is widespread in the Algarve region of Portugal and along the coasts of the Iberian Peninsula. Its range extends east to the Aegean and north as far as Brittany. In recent years tongue orchids have been found in Cornwall in the UK but their survival there is far from certain.
This orchid favours grassy slopes, garrigue and maquis habitats but can also appear in damper areas. It grows in calcareous substrates but is also tolerant of mildly acidic conditions. The plants frequently 'hug' bushes and grow around the base of of shrubs in abandoned farmland and other areas close to the coast.
The Small-flowered Tongue Orchid flowers from March to the beginning of May.
The specimen above was photographed in Portugal on the Algarve in May.
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
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...