John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Himantoglossum hircinum

This handsome orchid was first described from France in 1753 and its name refers to the scent of the flowers which is apparently reminiscent of goats ! 

H. hircinum is a widespread species which although unaccountably absent or rare in certain areas can equally be locally abundant in its favoured locations. Its distribution is largely centred on western Europe and reaches southern England in the north and north Africa (rarely) in the south. 

H. hircinum is a large orchid that can exceed 100 cms in height and is difficult to confuse with any other species except where its range overlaps with other similar group members such as H. caprinum and H. adriaticum.  It grows in full sun on alkaline soils and its favoured habitats are sand dunes, short grassland and sunny banks. As can be seen from the photos it can vary somewhat in colouration but its stature and characteristic form make it an easily identified orchid .

H. hircinum has had a mixed generic history having variously been a Satyrium,  Loroglossum, Acerus  and was finally placed within the genus Himantoglossum. Its common name has always been the Lizard Orchid  and this is a reference to the flower with its lizard like legs and tail. The species has gained a reputation  for appearing and disappearing without obvious environmental reason and this is particularly the case at the  extremities of its range such as in southern England. In general terms however it is beginning to occur more  frequently in Britain and there are now several well established populations.

The pictures here come from Gargano in Italy and the Vercors of Southern France.