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Common Name: Early Purple Orchis
Orchis mascula is a Bulb up to 0.60 metres tall.
It has edible and medicinal uses.
Most of Europe, including Britain, to N. Africa, western and northern Asia.
Woodland, copses and open pastures in base rich soils[
Succeeds in most soils, but it prefers a moist loam and lots of leaf mould[
]. Requires a deep rich soil[
]. Grows well in full sun or partial shade[
], doing well in a woodland garden[
]. It also succeeds in a sunny dry border or on a scree[
Orchids are, in general, shallow-rooting plants of well-drained low-fertility soils. Their symbiotic relationship with a fungus in the soil allows them to obtain sufficient nutrients and be able to compete successfully with other plants. They are very sensitive to the addition of fertilizers or fungicides since these can harm the symbiotic fungus and thus kill the orchid[
]. This symbiotic relationship makes them very difficult to cultivate, though they will sometimes appear uninvited in a garden and will then thrive. Transplanting can damage the relationship and plants might also thrive for a few years and then disappear, suggesting that they might be short-lived perennials[
Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[
The flowers have a fairly pleasant odour from a distance, but an unpleasant fur-like smell near to which is more pronounced at nightfall and as the flowers begin to fade[
Cultivated plants are very susceptible to the predation of slugs and snails[
Plants can succeed in a lawn in various parts of the country. The lawn should not be mown early in the year before or immediately after flowering[
]. Plant out bulbs whilst the plant is dormant, preferably in the autumn[
]. Bulbs can also be transplanted with a large ball of soil around the roots when they are in leaf, they are impatient of root disturbance[
Root - cooked[
]. It is a source of 'salep', a fine white to yellowish-white powder that is obtained by drying the tuber and grinding it into a powder[
]. Salep is a starch-like substance with a sweetish taste and a faint somewhat unpleasant smell[
]. It is said to be very nutritious and is made into a drink or can be added to cereals and used in making bread etc[
]. One ounce of salep is said to be enough to sustain a person for a day[
Salep (see above for more details) is very nutritive, astringent, expectorant and demulcent[
]. It has been used as a diet of special value for children and convalescents, being boiled with water, flavoured and prepared in the same way as arrowroot[
]. Rich in mucilage, it forms a soothing and demulcent jelly that is used in the treatment of irritations of the gastro-intestinal canal[
]. One part of salep to fifty parts of water is sufficient to make a jelly[
]. The tuber, from which salep is prepared, should be harvested as the plant dies down after flowering and setting seed[
Seed - surface sow, preferably as soon as it is ripe, in the greenhouse and do not allow the compost to dry out. The seed of this species is extremely simple, it has a minute embryo surrounded by a single layer of protective cells. It contains very little food reserves and depends upon a symbiotic relationship with a species of soil-dwelling fungus. The fungal hyphae invade the seed and enter the cells of the embryo. The orchid soon begins to digest the fungal tissue and this acts as a food supply for the plant until it is able to obtain nutrients from decaying material in the soil[
]. It is best to use some of the soil that is growing around established plants in order to introduce the fungus, or to sow the seed around a plant of the same species and allow the seedlings to grow on until they are large enough to move.
Division of the tubers as the flowers fade[
]. This species produces a new tuber towards the end of its growing season. If this is removed from the plant as its flowers are fading, the shock to the plant can stimulate new tubers to be formed. The tuber should be treated as being dormant, whilst the remaining plant should be encouraged to continue in growth in order to give it time to produce new tubers[
Division can also be carried out when the plant has a fully developed rosette of leaves but before it comes into flower[
]. The entire new growth is removed from the old tuber from which it has arisen and is potted up, the cut being made towards the bottom of the stem but leaving one or two roots still attached to the old tuber. This can often be done without digging up the plant. The old tuber should develop one or two new growths, whilst the new rosette should continue in growth and flower normally[