Early Purple Orchid
Orchis mascula


Early purple orchids are the first orchids to flower in spring and we are very lucky to have these here on the wetlands. They tend to flower in areas that are out of bounds, but you can view them on one of our spring walks, which give you exclusive access to the embankments surrounding the old reservoirs. Bees are attracted to early purple orchids, even though they don't contain any nectar. That's because they smell so sweet. Once the bees have pollinated them, their sweet smell becomes unpleasant. So, whilst beautiful to behold, you may not want to get your nose too close! Did you know? Shakespeare mentions the purple orchid in Hamlet where it is referred to as “Dead Men's Fingers”.

Early Purple Orchid facts and statistics

• First orchid of spring
• Up to 40 cm tall
• 50 flowers per plant
• Purple / pink flowers

How to identify

Beautiful purple or pink flowers on spikes; with up to 50 bells per spike. The early purple orchid has dark green leaves, with darker green / purple splodges running across the leaf.

Conservation status

Common in UK but under threat from intensive farming.


• Ancient woodland
• Grasslands
• Hedgerows
• Non-acidic soil

Ways to help

Careful grazing of farmland helps to protect the habitat of the early purple orchid; as well as coppicing, and scrub clearance.

Early Purple Orchid sightings at Grimsargh Wetlands

Early Purple Orchid Gallery

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