Orchis (L.) is the name giving Genus of the Orchidaceae family. The name, which was first mentioned by Theophrast around 300 B.C., originates from the two tubers which remind of testicles. This special configuration is caused by the lifecycle of the plant: While the current year's tuber withers, next year's tuber is formed in parallel. Flowers of Orchis are arranged in a more or less strict spike, the colors are mostly pink or purple, with few yellow, red or greenish species. There is no winter leaf rosette present as in several related genera.

Center of diversity is the Mediterranean, but some species reach north to the Norwegian coast, south to Morocco and Israel and east to lake Baikal. The genus is closely related to Anacamptis? and Neotinea?, with several species moved in between those in a revision of the genus in 1997. Other related genera include Dactylorhiza, Gymnadenia, Habenaria, Ophrys and Platanthera.

Orchis mascula L. is a big, conspicious Orchis spreading throughout western Europe, from Portugal to Norway, but can also be found on the Balkans, Turkey and parts of Georgia and Armenia. It prefers open forests on lime soil. Flowers are dark pink to purple, often with a spotted lip and slightly facing downwards, opposing an upwards-pointing spur of about the length of the ovary. Leaves may be spotted, but this feature varies widely. Photo by Martin Bohnet taken in habitat on the Swabian Alp, southern Germany.

Orchis mascula, Martin Bohnet

Orchis militaris L. is the type species of the genus. It is has the widest distribution of all species, spreading from most of Europe to Lake Baikal. It mostly grows in calcareous grassland on south-facing slopes in colder areas, reaching into wetter grounds as average temperature rises. Its habitat is threatened by eutrophication and intensification of agriculture, but where the conditions fit, it can be locally abundant.

The up to 40 cumarin-scented flowers of Orchis militaris are pale pink with a bright pink to purple rim and spots on the large, split lip. A minor spur is present. The epithet "militaris" is a reference to the helmet-shaped remaining petals. The leaves are plain green and forming a ground rosette, with usually two additional leaves protecting the stem. Photos by Martin Bohnet in habitat in the Swabian Alp.

Orchis militaris, Martin BohnetOrchis militaris flower detail, Martin Bohnet

Orchis militaris is sometimes offered commercially.

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