Orchis militaris

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Military orchid
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Orchidoideae
Genus: Orchis
O. militaris
Binomial name
Orchis militaris

Of O. militaris subsp. militaris:[1]

  • Orchis cinerea Schrank
  • Orchis galeata Poir.
  • Orchis militaris subsp. galeata (Poir.) Bonnier & Layens
  • Orchis militaris subsp. major Ehrh.
  • Orchis militaris var. tenuifrons P.D.Sell
  • Orchis mimusops Thuill.
  • Orchis nervata Marchand
  • Orchis rivini Gouan
  • Zoophora atropurpurea Bernh.
  • Zoophora rubella Bernh.

Of O. militaris subsp. stevenii:[2]

  • Orchis punctulata subsp. stevenii (Rchb.f.) H.Sund.
  • Orchis raddeana Regel
  • Orchis simia subsp. stevenii (Rchb.f.) E.G.Camus
  • Orchis stevenii Rchb.f.

Orchis militaris, the military orchid,[3] is a species of orchid native to Europe. It is the type species of the genus Orchis.


This plant grows to a height of 20 to 50 cm with a robust stem with rather drawn up oblong basal leaves. The inflorescence forms a purplish dense cone consisting of from 10 to 40 flowers. In each flower the sepals and side petals are gathered together to form a pointed "helmet" (whence it gets its name), a lilac colour outside and a veined purple colour inside. The central tongue finishes in two lobes separated by a tooth.

Depending on the location, it flowers from April to June.


Orchis militaris was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753.[4] Orchis militaris Poir.. is a synonym of Orchis italica.[5] Two subspecies are recognized:[6]

  • Orchis militaris subsp. militaris – widespread in Eurasia, from Britain to Mongolia[1]
  • Orchis militaris subsp. stevenii (Rchb.f.) B.Baumann, H.Baumann, R.Lorenz & Ruedi Peter – Iran, Crimea, North Caucasus, the Transcaucasus, Turkey[2]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

It is well distributed around Europe, reaching as far north as southern Sweden, but rather rare in the Mediterranean areas. It extends east across the Palearctic to Siberia. It prefers full light on a dry calcareous substrate, for example, unfertilized lawns, meadows, edges and light woods up to 2000 m in altitude.

It is extremely rare in Britain and a protected species, occurring only at the Rex Graham nature reserve in Suffolk and the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire.[7]


Orchis militaris contains the nutritious polysaccharide glucomannan, and is one of the original species of orchid whose ground-up roots are used to make the drink salep.


Orchinol is a phenanthrenoid that can be isolated from infected O. militaris.[8]


  1. ^ a b "Orchis militaris subsp. militaris", Plants of the World Online, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2022-07-25
  2. ^ a b "Orchis militaris subsp. stevenii (Rchb.f.) B.Baumann, H.Baumann, R.Lorenz & Ruedi Peter", Plants of the World Online, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2022-07-25
  3. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  4. ^ "Orchis militaris L..", The International Plant Names Index, retrieved 2022-07-25
  5. ^ "Orchis militaris Poir..", Plants of the World Online, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2022-07-25
  6. ^ "Orchis militaris L..", Plants of the World Online, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2022-07-25
  7. ^ Stroh, Peter A. (2016), Orchis militaris L. Military Orchid. Species Account. (PDF), Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, retrieved 1 November 2019
  8. ^ Structure of Orchinol, Loroglossol, and Hircinol. Roy M. Letcher and Llewellyn R. M. Nhamo, J. Chem. Soc., Perkin Trans. 1, 1973, pages 1263-1265, doi:10.1039/P19730001263

External links[edit]