Orchis anthropophora - Man Orchid

Scientific Name: Orchis anthropophora (syn Aceras anthropophorum) - 'orchis' is from the Greek for testicle, a reference to the form of the tubers; 'anthropos' = 'man' and 'phora' = 'one who carries', together a reference to the way the labellum (the bottom petal) is reminiscent of the shape of a man, with lobes that form arms and legs .

English Name: Man Orchid - referring to the same features as the scientific name.

French Name: Homme-pendu, which translates as 'hanged man', so the allusion is similar to the English and scientific names. Also Orchis Homme-pendu or Porte-homme ('man hanger' or 'man carrier') and Pantine (a pantine is an old technical term used in the silk dyeing industry. It took four pantines to make a hand of silk, so I am guessing the name is another way of acknowledging the four lobes of the labellum).

5 Key Characters:
  • narrow, elongated flower spike (5-20cm) with numerous densely packed flowers (up to 60)
  • labellum (lower petal) deeply divided and hanging
  • the only Orchis sp to have no eperon (the 'tube' at the back of the flower)
  • upper petals and sepals green with red-brown borders, forming a hood over the labellum
  • labellum greeny-yellow to reddish
Lookalikes: Unmistakable. This species has been re-integrated into the genus Orchis, after having been split from it into a new genus Aceras because of its lack of eperon (the 'spur' at the back of the flower). It was subsequently discovered that this species is in fact closely related to O. purpurea, O. simia and O. militaris, and hybrids are not infrequent, particularly with O. simia.

Habitat: Full sun to semi-shade on calcareous soil and marl; in lush short moderately dry grassland (like lawns), limestone scrubland, roadsides and occasionally, woodland clearings. May be growing as isolated plants or in quite large colonies. Occasionally on sand.

Flowering Period: April-May-June.

Status: Protected. Quite rare in Indre et Loire and Indre as a whole, but quite common in the Claise valley and common in Vienne. Can be seen within 5km of Preuilly-sur-Claise. In the Touraine it occurs in localised pockets, almost all of which are south of a line between Loches and Richelieu. Occurs in good numbers in the Brenne and Sologne.

Recorded by Loire Valley Nature:

Link to article in Days on the Claise.

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