Wild Orchids of Lauragais

Have you ever been lucky enough to be given a bouquet of beautiful orchids? For Europeans, orchids are rare and exotic, but in the tropics they are common place flowers and widely cultivated for display. When I lived in Brunei, on the steamy island of Borneo, it was easy and inexpensive to fill the house with fresh, cut blooms from the local nursery.

My days of orchid-filled vases are a distant memory, but now I believe I am even more fortunate. Each spring, the meadows (les prés) surrounding our French home are alive with wild orchids.

Though these local flowers are not as large and showy as their tropical cousins, they are fascinating to find, to photograph and to identify (though not to pick! Nearly all orchids are protected species in France.)

Here are some of the orchids that I’ve seen in recent days:

Bee Orchid (Ophrys Apifera)

Bee orchid
This striking orchid owes its name to the flower’s distinctive bee-shaped lip. The plant attracts bees by producing a scent that mimics (imiter) the scent of the female bee.

Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossium Hircinum)

Lizard orchid
The many flowers of this large orchid resemble lizards. It is also known as the ‘billy goat orchid’ (orchis bouc) due to the strong, foul smell of its flowers.

Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis Pyramidalis)

Pyramid orchid
In May the meadows are full of these purple, pyramid-shaped flowers.

Long-lipped Orchid (Serapias Vomeracea)

Long-lipped orchid
This reddish-brown plant is also known as the ‘plough serapias’ because its long lips resemble a farm plough (une charrue).