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.
Common in UK but under threat from intensive farming.
• Ancient woodland
• 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.