This hardy perennial plant grows to a height of 30 cm. The colour of the flower varies from pink to purple, or rarely white, and the scent is described as "foxy". The arrangement of hermaphroditic flowers in a compact pyramidal shape is very distinctive and gives the orchid its common name. The flowers are pollinated by butterflies and moths. This orchid requires a sunny spot on diverse soils: loamy or clay, rarely on sandy soils. It can even grow on very alkaline soil.
The dried and ground tuber gives a fine white powder, called salep. This is a very nutritious sweet starchlike substance. It is used in drinks, cereals and in making bread. It is also used medicinally in diets for children and convalescents.