The Military Orchid, Orchis militaris, is a species of orchid native to Europe.
This plant grows to a height of 20 to 50cm with a robust stem with rather drawn up oblong basal leaves. The inflorescence forms a purplish dense cone consisting of from 10 to 40 flowers. In each flower the sepals and side petals are gathered together to form a pointed "helmet" (whence it gets its name), a lilac colour outside and a veined purple colour inside.
The central tongue finishes in two lobes separated by a tooth.
Depending on location, April to June.
Likes full light on a dry calcareous substrate. For example unfertilized lawns, meadows, edges and light woods up to 2000m in altitude.
It is well distributed around Europe
, reaching as far north as southern Sweden
, but rather rare in the Mediterranean areas.
It is extremely rare in Britain
and a protected species, occurring only at the Rex Graham nature reserve
in Suffolk and the Buckinghamshire Chilterns.