Lizard Orchid

┬ęBruce Shortland

Lizard orchid

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Scientific name: Himantoglossum hircinum
The petals of the rare Lizard orchid's flowers form the head, legs and long tail of a lizard. They are greenish, with light pink spots and stripes, and smell strongly of goats! Spot this tall plant on chalk grasslands and dunes in the South East.

Top facts

Stats

Height: up to 1m

Conservation status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

June to July

About

The large and impressive Lizard orchid lives up to its name - the flowers have petals and sepals that form the 'head' of a lizard, while the divided lips look like its legs and long, twisting tail! Rare and localised in its distribution, it can be seen on sunny chalk grasslands, sand dunes and in old quarries. It flowers between June and July and smells distinctively of goats.

What to look for

The flowers of the Lizard orchid are pale and greenish, with delicate pink spots and stripes. Look for the long, curly frills that dangle down from the flower spike as the 'tail'. The spikes themselves are tall and stately, and can carry as many as 80 densely packed flowers. The oval leaves at the base of the plant soon wither.

Where to find

Only found in South East England.

Did you know?

The Lizard orchid is a sun-loving species that grows in abundance by the sides of roads and in rough grasslands in continental Europe. Here, it has always been a rare species, and was thought to be extinct in 1900. It was rediscovered in the 1920s, and numbers have fluctuated since then in response to warmer periods.