Orchis mascula

Botanical Name : Orchis maculata, Orchis latifolia, Orchis mascula, Orchis Morio, Orchis militaris, Orchis saccifera, Orchis pyrimidalis, Orchis coriphora, Orchis conopea

Family: Orchidaceae
Genus:     Orchis
Species: O. mascula
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Asparagales

Synonyms: Salep. Saloop. Sahlep. Satyrion. Levant Salep.

Common Names:Orchids, Early Purple Orchis

Habitat : The species is widespread across Europe, from Portugal to the Caucasus (Ireland, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Hungary,Czechia, Switzerland, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Ukraine, most of Russia), in northwest Africa (Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco) and in the Middle East (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq) up to Iran.It grows in a variety of habitats, from meadows to mountain pastures and woods, in full sun or shady areas, from 0–2,500 metres (0–8,202 ft) above sea level.

Description:
Orchis mascula is a herbaceous plant with stems up to 50–60 centimetres (20–24 in) of height, green at the base and purple on the apex. The root system consists of two tubers, rounded or ellipsoid. The leaves, grouped at the base of the stem, are oblong-lanceolate, pale green, sometimes with brownish-purple speckles. The inflorescence is 7.5–12.5 centimetres (3–5 in) long and it is composed of 6 to 20 flowers gathered in dense cylindrical spikes. The flower size is about 2.5 centimetres (0.98 in) and the color varies from pink to violet. The lateral sepals are ovate-lanceolate and erect, the median one, together with the petals, is smaller and cover the gynostegium. The labellum is three-lobed and convex, with crenulated margins and the basal part clearer and dotted with purple-brown spots. The spur is cylindrical or clavate, horizontal or ascending. The gynostegium is short, with reddish-green anthers. It blooms from April to June.

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Cultivation:  In general they are not difficult to grow, but there are a few points to note.  Orchis mascula likes a lime rich soil.

Seeds should be surface sown in a greenhouse, preferably as soon as they are ripe, do not allow the compost to dry out. The seed depends upon a symbiotic relationship with a species of soil-dwelling fungus, which 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.

Another way to grow this plant is by division of the tubers. As the flowers fade it produces a new tuber. 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. 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.
Edible Uses  :
Edible Parts: Root.
Edible Uses:

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.

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Medicinal Uses:
Constituents: The most important constituent is mucilage, amounting to 48 per cent. It also contains sugar 1 per cent), starch (2.7 per cent), nitrogenous substance (5 per cent), and when fresh a trace of volatile oil. It yields 2 per cent of ash, consisting chiefly of phosphates and chlorides of potassium and calcium.

(The constituents of Salep are subject to great variation, according to the season of collection. Raspail found the old tuber, collected in autumn, to be free from starch, while the young one was richly supplied with it.)

Astringent, Demulcent, Expectorant, Nutritive.

Salep 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.

Orchis mascula is an aphrodisiac according to Culpepper “ … provoke lust exceedingly.”

It cures worms in children. It heals the ‘kings evil’  –   Scrofula (Scrophula or Struma) refers to a variety of skin diseases; in particular, a form of tuberculosis, affecting the lymph nodes of the neck.

It was held in great repute in herbal medicine, being largely employed as a strengthening and soothing properties   To allay irritation of the gastro-intestinal canal, it is used by shaking 1 part of powdered Salep with 10 parts of cold water, until it is uniformly diffused, when 90 parts of boiling water are added and the whole well agitated. It has thus been recommended as an article of diet for infants and invalids suffering from chronic diarrhoea and bilious fevers.

In the German Pharmacopoeia, a mucilage of Salep appears as an official preparation.

Salep is very nutritive and demulcent, for which properties it has been used from time immemorial.

It forms a diet of especial value to convalescents and children, being boiled with milk or water, flavoured and prepared in the same way as arrowroot.  A decoction flavoured with sugar and spice, or wine, is an agreeable drink for invalids. Sassafras chips were sometimes added, or cloves, cinnamon and ginger.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orchis_mascula
http://www.complete-herbal.com/details/orchis.html
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/o/orchid13.html

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Orchis+mascula

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