Species of the Month - May 2013

Early Purple Orchid

Orchis mascula

This is the first orchid to flower and is most often seen in May.  It is recognisable by the colour and the 3-lobed lower petal with the middle lobe notched.  Spots are confined to the centre of the flower and it does not have the complex arrangement of lines, dots and loops covering most of the lower petal as in Northern Marsh Orchid and its relatives.  The leaves usually have purple spots but can be plain green.

Orchis mascula   Orchis mascula

This orchid likes a calcareous environment, so it is often an indicator of other botanical interest.  It is found on cliffs and rockfaces, often on the coast, also in gorges and in woodland or grassland.

Orchis mascula

The flowers have an attractive scent when first open and attract bees as pollinators, but the scent becomes unpleasant when the flower is a bit older.  As with many other orchids, plants of this species don't necessarily flower each year.  In some years they may put up only a rosette of leaves, or even remain completely underground.  (source: Orchids of Britain and Ireland, A & S Harrap, 2009)

Orchis mascula


Please send in your Early Purple Orchid sightings using the form below, or email sightings@lnhg.org.uk with the details if you prefer.  If you are not sure of the identity of your orchid, please send a photo to sightings@lnhg.org.uk, or put one on the LORN forum and let me know it is there.

Date of sighting 
Grid reference 
Number seen 
Name of finder 
Your name (if different) 
Email (not needed if I already know it!) 
Habitat and any other details   


By filling in this form you agree that the information contained in this form may be collated and disseminated manually or electronically for environmental decision-making, education, research and other public benefit uses in accordance with the LNHG data access policy.  Your email address will not form part of the record and will not be passed on to anyone.

Carl Farmer
G Biological Records Manager

Sightings so far

10 May: Chris Irvine found 2 spikes in flower in Glen Nant.

11 May: Chris Irvine found 12 flowering spikes at the foot of rocky outcrops in the field around Glencoe war memorial.

12 May: Sallie Jack and party found 10 flowering spikes near Onich.

14 May: Judith Witts saw 6 at Achinduin, Lismore.

18 May: Chris Irvine found a solitary spike in full bloom by the river Awe on our LNHG walk.

24 May: Sallie Jack and party found about 20 at Smirisary near Glenuig.

25 May: Jan Hamilton found several east of Kinlochleven and took the two photos below.

Orchis mascula   Orchis mascula

28 May: Marion Moir found the first of several on the LNHG field trip in Glen Euchar.

29 May: I found a couple near Arduaine.

30 May: Cynthia Grindley found 5 spikes on Mull.

5 Jun: Plentiful on U3A visit to Frackersaig, Lismore.


Note you can still send in records for past species of the month.  Here is the list of species we've had so far:

Apr 2013 - Peacock Butterfly
Mar 2013 - Oak Beauty
Feb 2013 - Coral Lungwort

Jan 2013 - Willow Jelly Button & Birch Jelly Button
Dec 2012 - Dice Lichen
Nov 2012 - Feathered Thorn
Oct 2012 - Dryad's Saddle
Sep 2012 - Tawny Grisette
Aug 2012 - Forest Bug
Jul 2012 - Grayling
Jun 2012 - Greater and Lesser Butterfly Orchids
May 2012 - Small Copper
Apr 2012 - Green Tiger Beetle
Mar 2012 - March Moth
Feb 2012 - Barren Strawberry
Jan 2012 - Brambling
Dec 2011 - Red Squirrel
Nov 2011 - Hazel Gloves
Oct 2011 - Small Tortoiseshell
Sep 2011 - Fly Agaric
Aug 2011 - Grass of Parnassus
Jul 2011 - Golden-ringed Dragonfly
Jun 2011 - 7-spot Ladybird
May 2011 - Green Hairstreak
Apr 2011 - Townhall Clock

Mar 2011 - Frogspawn

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All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer except where stated