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Orchis simia x Orchis purpurea - Orchis x angusticruris
(Hybrid between Lady Orchid and Lady Orchid)

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae

To find a recognisable orchid hybrid in the wild is exciting, but they are sometimes difficult to identify accurately because, even in relatively small groups of hybrids with the same two parent species, there can be considerable variation in the shape, size, and most confusing of all, lip pattern and form of the flowers.

Monkey Orchids and Lady Orchids are both very rare in the UK and so, whilst orchid hybrids are not uncommon in the wild, it is extremely uncommon that hybrids between two such rare species should occur in Britain. In other parts of Europe where both species are more common, the occurence of this hybrid is more frequent. The plants shown on this page were photographed at Hartslock Nature Reserve in the Chilterns, where a colony of Monkey Orchids was well known. It was not until 1997 that an unusual leaf rosette was discovered at the site which, when it finally flowered in 2002, proved to be a Lady Orchid. In the following years several more Lady Orchid leaf rosettes were observed and were joined by several other leat rosettes which displayed further differences. In 2006 a flower appeared which was very different from the Lady Orchid and the Monkey Orchids on the site but revealed the visible characteristics of both parents in varying degrees - the first hybrids between the two species ever to be found in the UK.

Orchis x angusticruris

Above: a group of hybrids between Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea and Monkey Orchid Orchis simia sometimes referred to as the Lankey Orchids. In the centre is the Lady Orchid and it is surrounded by hybrids which, on close inspection, are very variable. There is a small group of Monkey Orchids nearby.

Orchis x angusticruris, closeup picture of the flowers

Above: closeup of the hybrid between Lady Orchid and Monkey Orchid

The hybrids display the following characteristics:

Orchis x angusticruris with its parent species

Above: 1 - Monkey Orchid with its pale hood and thin curly 'legs'. 2 - The hybrid beween the two species. 3 - Lady Orchid flower.

DNA analysis of the Hartslock Lady Orchids has revealed that their closest relatives are plants found in the south of France, leading to the conclusion that the Lady Orchid was introduced, either by accident or deliberately.


If you found this information helpful, we are sure you would also like books on the Wild Orchids of Wales, of The Burren, and of the Algarve. Author-signed copies are available here...