Saturday, November 17, 2007

The man orchid – Aceras or Orchis ?

One the more common orchids in Portugal is known by “rapazinhos” and in English by “man orchid”.

Its common name arises from the resemblance of its flowers to a hanged man, whose head is formed by the petals and sepals, and suspended torso and limbs from the lobes of the labellum.

Serra de Montejunto, March 31st, 2005

The man orchid is a delicate orchid that grows to a height of between 15 and 30 cm. It is very easy to recognize by its basal rosette (all leaves are inserted at soil level), has 5-10 long lanceolate, spotless, leaves and by its small yellow-green stemless flowers with red stripes.

It is fairly common in Portugal, in the west limestone area, between the rivers Sado and Mondego, up to 60 km away from the sea, and also in the Algarve. Best places are Serras da Arrábida, d’Aire e Candeeiros, and Serra de Montejunto.

Close-up of previous photo

The man orchid used to be the only species of the monotypic genus Aceras - Aceras anthropophorum. It was first described by Carl von Linné in 1753 as Ophrys anthropophora but has been known since 1818 as Aceras anthropophorum (L.) W.T. Aiton.

The flowers seem to have a bifid tongue ...

Recently, for morphological reasons it has been renamed Orchis anthropophora, by DELFORGE and included in the Orchis group militaris, that in Portugal also includes Orchis italica. Molecular studies by BATEMAN also suggest the close relationship with other Orchis species.

The man orchid – Aceras or Orchis ?

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