Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae
Serapias orientalis is a short but robust plant growing to around 30cm tall. There are up to 10 pointed leaves at the base of the stem and some further bract-like leaves higher up. Each inflorescence carries up to 7 large flowers which are quite densely packed together. The sepals and petals are a pale pink-to-mauve and veined with dark red. They form a 'hood' over the lip of the flower which is broad at the base and tapering sharply towards the pointed tip. The lip is coated in the centre with long, dense white-ish hairs. The overall colour of the flowers is variable - some are pink and others a dull yellow or brick-coloured orange.
As its name suggests this Mediterranean species grows mainly in the eastern part of the region, in Crete and southern Greece. It is frequently confused with other tongue orchid species and so its true range is unknown.
This plant grows in full sun or mid-shaded calcareous substrates and tolerates both dry and moist conditions. Unimproved short grasslands, damp meadows and abandoned farmland and olive groves are good places to look.
From March to the end of April
The plants shown on this page were photographed in Crete at the beginning of April.
The genus name Serapias comes from the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis, while the specific epithet orientaliis means 'from the Orient' ('eastern').
The Plant List
Pierre Delforge (2005) Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; A&C Black
Fielding, Turland and Mathew (2005) Flowers of Crete; Kew
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...