Saturday, August 18, 2007


The genus Serapias - the tongue orchids - are easily distinguished from other orchids by its distinctive characteristic - the tongue shapped lip.

Serapias lips - as with Epipactis and Cephalanthera -are distinctly divided into two parts separated by a constriction. The internal part is called hypochilium, and the external is called epichilium.

There are 5 species of tongue orchids reported in Portugal: perez-chiscanoi, vomeracea, strictiflora, lingua and parviflora. These Serapias species are distinguished mainly by the colour and the shape of the lip.

Adapted from Flora Iberica

The presence of only one ridge on the basis of the lip diferentiates S. lingua and S. strictiflora from the other 3 species.

The lip of S. parviflora has 2 ridges, clearly visible in the photo
S. lingua has a glabrous epichilium, wider than 5 mm and is found all over Portugal in open conditions.

S. strictiflora has a hairy epichilium up to 4.5 mm wide, and is found in the centre and south of Portugal in open conditions on variable soils, often in homogeneous groups.

S. lingua: only one ridge and a lip wider than 5 mm

The ridge is clearly visible

S. parviflora has the epichilium up to 6 mm wide and 12.7 mm long, while the other two - cordigera and perez-chiscanoi have epichiliuns wider than 8 mm and longer than 13 mm.

Group of two S. parviflora , Serra de Montejunto, May 2007

S. perez-chiscanoi is a rare species only known in two areas in Alentejo, in rather humid, open habitat, and is the only one with green labellum and with the epichilium narrower than the hypochillum.

S. cordigera has dark red epichilium, as wide as the hypochillum, bracts shorter than the flowers, and is scatered throught Portugal.

S. parviflora, Serra de Montejunto, May 2007

Confused ? I will try to summarize:

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