Thursday, 11 June 2009


I was very privileged today to be taken by someone I know who is a Botanist to see a very rare plant in the UK a Lizard Orchid. She had stumbled across it by chance whilst out walking and with great excitement reported it to the local Botanical group. She was told they were aware and monitoring this which was the only one in Surrey.

Britannica on line Encyclopedia says
lizard orchid plant (Himantoglossum hircinum), unusual-looking plant of the family Orchidaceae, occurring sporadically in a variety of dry European habitats. Each greenish-purple flower bears several long, slightly twisted lobes. The two side lobes resemble the hindlegs of a lizard, the long central part of the lip is similar to a tail, and the petals and sepals form the head and body.

Clearly this find was still in bud.

Whilst we were out she had said there are plenty of Common Spotted Orchids and we did see several.

From Wikipedia
The Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) is a commonly occurring species of European orchid. It is widely variable in colour and height, ranging from 15 to 60 cm in height. The flower colour can vary from white to pale purple with purple spots. The lip has three lobes. Some colonies are highly perfumed, attractive to day-flying moths.
Flowers: June-August.
Leaves: narrow lanceolate, keeled, often dark-spotted.
Distribution: ubiquitous from alkaline marshes to chalk downland. The most common orchid in Britain. After the Bee Orchid, the most successful coloniser of waste land.

Imagine her surprise and excitement to find yet another Lizard Orchid this time with buds just beginning to open. So are we the first to find the second Lizard Orchid in Surrey!

Lizard Orchid
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Lizard Orchid

Scientific classification
H. hircinum
Binomial name
Himantoglossum hircinum(L.) Spreng., 1826
The Lizard Orchid is more commonly known as Himantoglossum hircinum. It is found across Europe, from Spain eastwards to the Balkans and Hungary and in western North Africa. It is usually rare but can sometimes be found in great numbers in suitable habitats. This orchid grows in dry meadows, rocky areas, and open woods. It may reach a height of 90 cm.

[edit] Sites in Britain
The Lizard Orchid is found at a number of sites in Britain including the following in southwest England:
Berrow Dunes
Cuckoo Lake, Kendleshire, South Gloucestershire
A relatively large population is found in East Anglia, along the stretch of the "Devils Dyke" that runs through newmarket racecourse.

[edit] Sites in France
Small populations can be found along the French Mediterranean coast just south of Narbonne within 2kms of the sea and 2-4kms inland from the Gironde Estuary near Royan.


  1. Lovely lizard orchid ... I hope such orchids will continue to grow wild and adapt to whatever changes we may have introduced into their habitat...

    ~ bangchik

  2. How exciting to find this. It is very pretty and not at all what you picture when thinking of orchids.

  3. How exciting to have found a second one! It's very pretty, did it have a good fragrance?

  4. Orchids! My favorite flower! And to find them like this in the wild how wonderful. I was just visiting the estate property of a famous botanist who specialized in orchids that lived in Easton, Massachusetts. His name was Oakes Ames and lived from 1874 - 1950. Your post reminded of a visit to his home that is now open to public as a historical landmark. Thanks for a wonderful post! -Jackie

  5. For a moment I thought that it was a lizard orchid I'd photo'd on my wild thing post. However it doesn't quite meet with your desciption though similar.

    I enjoyed reading this post Joanne. I bet it was a great day spotting stuff in the wild.


  6. Hi Bangchik and Kakdah I am sure with climate change there will be positives as well as negatives. There has been some effort to encourage the habitat for such plants to thrive in.
    Raingardener it is still in bud and the picture I have seen on Wikipedia shows the flowers to open with very long tails rather unusual. I suspect it's greenish colurs will help protect it as it is so rare.
    Patient gardener Yes it was actually.
    Catherine I couldn't bend down to find out and we had to be careful to disguise our foot steps as we were supposed not to stray from the path because of Skylarks nesting and also so as not to make it too obvious for other's to find it.
    Ellie Mae My Dad was a keen orchid grower but I don't seem to get the right conditions. I do have a few dendrobiums but even they haven't flowered the last few years. When they did the perfume was amazing.
    Rob I just checked but your orchid was far prettier. This was a bit insignificant but I guess when the buds open it will be a site. I must go back in a few days.

  7. I envy you the experience and can well imagine your companion's delight.
    Coming across a wildflower you have been looking for really lifts the spirits.

    One of my few accomplishments is the instinct to recognize a wildflower from a speeding car ( not at the wheel I hasten to add).
    It makes me very unpopular at times, as I usually insist on going back ( "only a few hundred yards, dear" ). Up till now it has always been worthwhile thank goodness. And to see something you only know from books is simply thrilling.

    Needless to say, I have never seen that particular Orchis. One day, maybe. Merrow Downs is supposed to be a site as well. Or some such name.

    BTW, is that the Yellow Rattle in the background of the Common Orchid? That ought to be out now as well.

  8. Hi Jo
    I am no expert on wildflowers but my friend was so excited on finding the first one but also on finding the second one which does not seem to have been recorded.

    I live near Merrow Downs and yes it is a lovely place.
    Yes I am told it is Yellow Rattle both orchids appear to be in favour of where the Yellow Rattle is I think it makes the grass not as vigorous.