Serapias is a genus in the Orchidaceae family. These orchids are terrestrial and all of the species are from different areas around the Mediterraean, with Serapias lingua actually having naturalized in parts of England. Many are easy subjects for pot culture in a fast draining mix, with a dry summer rest. Unlike most of the related genera in the Orchideae-tribe, Serapias tends to form a clump. The closest relative is likely Anacamptis, with which some spectacular natural hybrids can be formed in habitat.
The flowers are dominated by an often hairy lip, with all other petals more or less fused into a helmet shape. Identification based on photos alone is often difficult, as one specific characteristic is usually hidden from sight: At the base of the lip, species can be recognized by one central or two lateral calluses of different colors, but one has to bend the helmet away to see those.
Serapias cordigera L. is a widespread species of the western Mediterranean and Portugal, reaching as far east as Turkey, climbing the Balkans all the way to the southern border of Austria, and populating the African coast from Morocco to Libya.
The heart-shaped frontal lip is usually intensely red colored, contrasting with the silverish bracts, but the photos by Martin Bohnet of the same plant in different years show that intense sunlight is needed for that contrast to fully build in culture north of the alps. To assure the identification, look at the base of the lip to find two blackish-purple calluses.
Serapias lingua L., though originating from the western Mediterranean, is happy outdoors in the UK and soon forms a small colony. It is a typical Mediterranean orchid, producing leaves in autumn and remaining green until it flowers in late spring, then going dormant until it rains again. This species has a single, central, dark callus at the base of its slender and mostly hairless lip.
One recommendation to the PBS list was to pot them in fast-draining sand-soil mixtures with chunks of calcareous tufa or ground limestone in the mix and around the tuberoids. Keep them in a bright position protected from frost and water lightly in winter. Photo by Andrew Harvie.
Serapias vomeracea (Burm.f.) Briq. is accepted and its native range is S. Central Europe, Mediterranean to W. Caucasus. These photos were taken by Shlomit Heymann in the Carmel mountains of Israel in late March, 2011, the first winter after a fire. This is another one of the 2 callus species at the base of the slender, hairy, brownish lip, which is often bent backwards.