John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
Home Back to Herminium species Links

Herminium monorchis


H. monorchis was first described from Scanie (Sweden) by Brown in 1753 and its name reflects  the orchids characteristic single tuber. Every year the current tuber develops a new one at the end of a lengthy stolon and it's this that produces the next years plant. As a consequence of this, the orchid grows in a slightly different position each season and for this reason it is often referred to as a migratory orchid.

This species is not one of the orchid worlds most striking representatives being both small in stature,  plain in colour and without a particularly impressive form, it is however highly attractive to insects and is known to be visited by a wide range of pollinators. Notwithstanding this, seed production is low and propagation is largely by means of vegetative spread.  H. monorchis has a distinctive scent which probably accounts for its popularity with insects.  Its common name in Britain is "Musk Orchid" but this does the species little justice as the scent has a characteristic honey fragrance.

H. monorchis has a wide distribution throughout temperate Europe and has a similarly wide variety of habitat preferences ranging from dry grassland to fens and moist dune slacks.  In the UK it s almost entirely a plant of calcareous meadows, normally where a degree of grazing eliminates rank vegetation with which it cannot compete. It is a small plant which is easily overlooked although it generally grows in significant colonies which assist in its location. At first glance it is reminiscent of Liparis loeselii, especially in the manner of its growth and the almost translucent green/yellow colouration which can be so difficult to record accurately in a photograph.

The pictures accompanying this page are all from Hampshire (UK) and date from the beginning of July.