Himantoglossum

Himantoglossum Spreng. is a genus in the Orchidaceae family closely related to Orchis and Ophrys, and contains some of the largest species in core Orchideae. Common feature of most is a long and twisted labellum which led to the latin name meaning strap-tongue. Originating from the Mediterranean, at least one species reaches as far north as the UK, but still follows the Mediterranean cycle of a dry(ish) summer rest.


Himantoglossum hircinum (L.)Spreng., the Lizard Orchid, has the most northern distribution of the genus and can be found from the UK to Portugal, Morocco, Algeria and the Balkans. It prefers lime soils on south-facing slopes. While the English name refers to the twisted, lizard-tail like greenish or brownish tongue, which reaches a length of up to 6 centimeters, the Latin hircinum as well as the German Bocks-Riemenzunge refer to the rather unpleasant smell of goat. The plants hibernate with a fully grown basal rosette which is already withering when the flower spikes emerge in early summer. Despite the size and the beautiful pink flower detail, the whole plant can fade remarkably well into it's surroundings. The photos by Martin Bohnet show plants in habitat at the Swabian Alb.

Himantoglossum hircinum flower spike, Martin BohnetHimantoglossum hircinum flower detail, Martin BohnetHimantoglossum hircinum pollen, Martin BohnetHimantoglossum hircinum whitish color form unfurling, Martin BohnetHimantoglossum hircinum group of specimen, Martin Bohnet


Himantoglossum robertianum (Loisel.) P.Delforge, syn. Barlia robertiana is the exception to the rule in Himantoglossum, as its flowers lack the elongated labellum and share the proportions of many Orchis- or Dactylorhiza species, although the individual flowers are larger. The whole plant gives a feeling of massiveness, resulting in being called Giant Orchid without being all that taller than other species. The species spreads around the western Mediterranean but also occurs at Lake Garda, Italy, indicating some frost tolerance. The sweetly scented flowers appear in spring and vary in color from light pink to deep purple. The photos show a plant cultivated by Martin Bohnet under frost-free glass.

Himantoglossum robertianum, Martin BohnetHimantoglossum robertianum flower detail, Martin BohnetHimantoglossum robertianum about two weeks before flowering, Martin Bohnet


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