Serapias parviflora - Small-flowered Serapias

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

Serapias parviflora - Small-flowered Serapias


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.

Serapias parviflora, pale yellowish form

The inflorescence is lax and carries between 3 and 12 tiny flowers which are usually orange in colour with paler, yellow specimens occuring in some places.

Serapias parviflora, southern Portugal


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.

Serapias parviflora, side and front views of flowers

Flowering times

The Small-flowered Tongue Orchid flowers from March to the beginning of May.

The specimens shown above were photographed in the Algarve region of Portugal during May.

A pair of Serapias [parviflora plants, Portugal


This page includes piuctures kindly contributed by Rob Petley-Jones.


The genus name Serapias comes from the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis, while the specific epithet parviflora means 'small-flowered'.

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

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