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Serapias vomeracea - Long-lipped Tongue-orchid

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

Whole plant picture of Serapias vomeracea

Sometimes referred to as the Ploughshare Tongue Orchid it is the long hairy lip of Serapias vomeracea is the distinguishing feature of this Tongue Orchid.

Serapias vomeracea

The long lip of Serapias vomeracea

Description

Serapias vomeracea is a robust plant growing up to 60cm tall. The leaves form around the base of the stem and are erect, narrow and pointed. There are further bract-like leaves along the stem. The inflorescence is lax and carries up to 12 large flowers with lips which extend up to 44mm in length and which are densely hairy in the centre. The colour of the flowers is variable but they are often orange-to dark red.

Distribution

Serapias vomeracea is widespread throughout Europe and can be found in many Atlantic and Mediterranean countries. The exact range is unknown due to confusion with other similar-looking orchids, especially Serapias bergonii and Serapias orientalis.

Habitat

This orchid is tolerant of a number of habitats and grows in garrigue, coastal locations and short grasslands, but can also be found in damp fields and in open woodland on limestone and mildly acidic substrates. France, Italy, Greece and Cyprus are some of the European countries where this orchid is widespread.

A yellow-flowered example of Serapias vomeracea

A very pale yellow example of Serapias vomeracea with a very pointed lip

Flowering times

This orchid usually flowers from mid-April onwards, and in the more northerly countries some specimens can still be found in June.

The plants shown on this page were photographed in the Lot Valley in France (top) and in Italy on the Gargano Peninsula in late April.

Etymology

The genus name Serapias comes from the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis, while the specific epithet vomeracea comes from Latin and apparently likens the apex of the flower lip to a ploughshare.

Reference sources

The Plant List

Sue Parker (2014) Wild Orchids of the Algarve - how , when and where to find them; First Nature

Pierre Delforge (2005) Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; A&C Black

Les Orchidees de France, Belgique et Luxemborg; Parthenope Collection

Angela Rossini and Giovanni Quiadamo (2003) Orchidee Spontanee nel Parco Nazionale del Gargano; Centrografico Francescano

Claudio Del Fuoco (2003) Orchidee del Gargano


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