Herbs & Plants

Ophrys insectifera

Botanical Name: Ophrys insectifera
Family: Orchidaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales
Genus: Ophrys
Species:O. insectifera

*Epipactis myodes (Jacq.) F.W.Schmidt
*Malaxis myodes (Jacq.) Bernh.
*Ophrys insectifera var. myodes L.
*Ophrys myodes (L.) Jacq. (nom. illeg.)
*Orchis insectifera (L.) Crantz
*Orchis myodes (Jacq.) Bernh

Common Names: Fly orchid

Ophrys insectifera is native to Europe, growing further north than most other species in the genus Ophrys, in Scandinavia, Finland and the Baltic states, and as far south as Greece and Spain. In the UK it is a rare species, with a southern distribution.

The plant favours sites with damp, alkaline, unimproved soil. It can be found growing in beech woodlands, on forest edges, in scrub, on limestone pavement, limestone grassland, in chalk pits and wet meadows, on cliffs as well as on disused railways

Ophrys insectifera is a tuberous perennial, reaching 60 cm (2 ft) in height, which flowers across its range from May to July. It is a slender plant, with narrow upright leaves. A flower spike may carry 1-10 flowers, which have yellow-green sepals, very reduced, dark brown/black petals resembling the antennae of an insect and a long, narrow, lobed labellum, which is dark in colour, varying from maroon to black and on which there are two glossy depressions known as ‘pseudoeyes’ as well as an iridescent blue/grey patch evolved to resemble an insect’s glistening wings. There is a rare yellow-flowered form of O. insectifera. Chromosomes 2n=36.


Plants can be grown in a lawn, but the lawn must not be cut until the plants have set seed. 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. The flowers resemble a female insect and also emit a scent similar to female pheremones, they are pollinated by a male insect of that species attempting to copulate with the flower[200]. Plants are rather sparingly visited by bees and flies, setting seed only if visited. Tubers should be planted out whilst they are dormant, this is probably best done in the autumn. They should be planted at least 5cm below soil leve.

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 said to be very nutritious and is made into a drink or added to other cereals and used in bread etc[183]. One ounce of salep is said to be enough to sustain a person for a day. The salep can also be made into a drink.

Medicinal Uses:
Salep (see above for more details) is very nutritive 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.

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


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