Purple Orchids: 10 Scintillating Varieties

Orchis Purpurea

If you are a fan of the color purple and are a lover of orchids, then this article is most certainly made for you. 

The color purple is the product of a mixture of red and blue. It serves as a balance of the intensity of red and the calmness of blue.  Historically, due to the fact that the color purple is not naturally occurring, it was associated with expensiveness, as purple dyes were created from the shells of a specific snail.

In the present, color psychology has the various shades of the color purple associated with a myriad of elements including royalty, ceremony, luxury, power, creativity, nobility, bravery, intelligence and even sadness among others.

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To underscore these associations, one need only think about the purple robes favored by certain members of the clergy, the Purple Heart medal awarded to members of the armed forces, and Purple Day which is the global event for raising awareness about epilepsy.

With all of these positive associations, it is not out of place for a nature-loving person to seek out physical manifestations of purple on the blooms of an orchid. To help such persons on their search, below is a list of ten varieties of orchids that have a connection with the color purple.

10 Greet Purple Orchids

Orchid Mascula 

Orchid Mascula

More commonly known as the Early Purple Orchid, Orchid Mascula has as its natural habitat marshes, pastures, meadows or woods across Europe, North Africa and parts of the Middle East. The Orchid Mascula is one plant that has been around for a very long time.

If you doubt this, all you need do is pick up a copy of Shakespeare’s Macbeth where it is made reference to by the character Gertrude as the “long purple” of Ophelia’s garland. This fact is also a clear pointer to how common the Orchid Mascula used to be but urbanization has sadly depleted its natural growing population.

As to its physical composition, the Orchid Mascula is a perennial herb plant which generally has two root tubers that are reminiscent of testicles. These tubers are used as a food storage device by the plant. One stores food for the plant’s current needs and the other for its future food needs. These tubers are not only a food supplier for the plant but are also edible to man.

Early Europeans believed the tubers were an aphrodisiac. Currently, the tubers are still being used as a food source and more prominently, are used to make salep. Salep is a fine powder that is the product of grinding dried tubers of the Orchid Mascula plant and which can be used to make certain beverages, bread, and soup.

Other than its root tubers, the plant has a stem that can grow as tall as 60cm and which progresses from being green at the base to purple at its apex. At the base of stem, the stalkless pale-green oblong-shaped leaves of the plant (which can also be spotted) grow in the form of a rosette sheath which help to protect the plant’s inflorescence when it emerges.

The plant’s inflorescence takes the form of a cylindrical spike which can be as lengthy as 12.5cm. The inflorescence bears approximately 6-20 flowers that are pinkish-purple to purple in color.

The Early Purple Orchid moniker of this plant is a giveaway to the fact that this plant blooms early when compared to some other orchids. Its purple flowers can come into view as early as April and are best viewed between April and June.

When it blooms for the first time, the Orchid Mascula produces a pleasant scent reminiscent of the scent of the lily-of-the-valley slightly mixed with blackcurrant. Subsequently, the bloom might begin to reek.

As such, the allure of this orchid is mostly in its colorful appearance.  This colorful appearance is also used as a deceptive ploy by the plant, for attracting insect pollinators, as its flowers do not produce any nectar. 

In cultivating this orchid, moist neutral or base-rich loam soil in full sun or partial shade is your best bet.

Anacamptis Pyramidalis

Anacamptis Pyramidalis

The Anacamptis Pyramidalis is more commonly known as the pyramidal orchid and owes its name to the Greek and Latin words for “bend forward” and “pyramid” respectively. This orchid is quite special as it features in Charles Darwin’s book Fertilisation of Orchids and was also voted the County flower of the Isle of Wight as it is quite prevalent on the island’s chalk landscape.

The pyramidal orchid is a perennial herb also having root tubers which have been found to be edible. The tubers are still a viable source of salep which can be made into a number of food choices.

The root tubers of the pyramidal orchid act as the foundation for the plant which can attain an average height of 10-25cm and a possible maximum of 60cm. The stem of the plant bears both basal and cauline leaves. The cauline leaves which appear at the upper part of the rigidly straight stem tend to be smaller than those at the base and may sometimes be barely visible. The stem of this plant does not divide into branches. 

The Anacamptis Pyramidalis flowers within the period from March to July. The flowers produced by the plant are pinkish-purple in color and are typically hermaphroditic. These flowers are usually compact in form and are conically shaped when the inflorescence is newly formed.

This is the basis of its “pyramid” name. Subsequently, when the inflorescence becomes fully developed, the flowers acquire a more oval or egg-shaped appearance. The flowers of this orchid are reported to emit a foxy vanilla scent during the day to attract pollinating butterflies. 

Native to Southwestern Eurasia, the pyramidal orchid is fairly distributed across Europe, North Africa and the Near East. This orchid is propagated by its seed and is best cultivated in well-drained soil having specific fungus that will aid it in obtaining sufficient nutrients. A mild climate and an absence of shade will do this plant good.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

The Dactylorhiza fuchsii is an orchid whose name is sourced from the Ancient Greek word for finger root. Its name is therefore a reference to the shape of the plant’s root. It is more commonly known as the common spotted orchid thanks to the purple streaks which appear on the plant’s leaves.

The Dactylorhiza fuchsii enjoys the title of being commonest orchid in the UK and is also the county flower of West Lothian, a council area in Scotland. This orchid is fairly distributed across Europe, Siberia, Mongolia and parts of Canada.

Like most orchids, the Dactylorhiza fuchsii is  a perennial herbaceous plant having tuberous roots. It sheds its leaves annually and so can be said to be deciduous. This orchid can grow up to 60cm tall and possesses a solid stem. From its stem grows the purple spotted lance-shaped leaves that gives it the common spotted name.

These leaves form a rosette at the base of the stem and help to sheath it. Subsequent to the appearance of leaves, the plant produces its inflorescence in the form of conically shaped densely populated flower spikes.

The flowers produced by this plant appear in the period between June and August and with color variations from white to pink, through to purple. The individual flowers tend to have dark pink or purple spots on them. In addition to their colorful exterior, the flowers produce a pleasant fragrance which is attractive to pollinators, particularly the daytime flying moth.

 Dactylorhiza fuchsii is propagated by its seed and will thrive in well-drained clay or loam soil and under partial shade. The plant is also hardy and as such is unthreatened by cold temperatures. It is not to be mistaken for its close relative Dactylorhiza maculata.

Dactylorhiza maculata

Dactylorhiza maculata

This member of the orchid family is also known as the heath spotted orchid or the moorland spotted orchid. This herbaceous perennial can be found growing in most countries on the European continent and northern Africa as well as western Siberia. 

This orchid is often mistaken for the Dactylorhiza fuchsii as they possess similar structures. The difference between both plants is seen first in their size, as the Dactylorhiza fuchsii on average, is taller than the Dactylorhiza maculata. Again the flower of the Dactylorhiza maculata tends to be paler and more round than that of the Dactylorhiza fuchsii.

The Dactylorhiza maculata has the characteristic of being both tuberous and decidous. Its stem is smooth and striated and yields either basal or cauline leaves. This orchid has an average height of between 15-55cm and a possible maximum height of 80cm. This orchid flowers in the period between May and July. Its flowers vary in color from pink to purple.

Green-winged Orchid (Anacamptis morio)

Anacamptis morio

The green-winged or green-veined orchid is another purple flower having orchid. It is a perennial herbaceous plant originally native to and fairly distributed in Eurasia and Northern Africa. 

The green-winged orchid is often mistaken for the early purple orchid but there are clear distinctions between both. Particularly, the leaves produced by the green-winged orchid are unspotted unlike those of the early purple orchid. Again, the flowers of the green-winged orchid have greenish parallel lines on their sepals (which is the basis for their name) and these lines are absent on the flowers of the early purple orchid. 

The green-winged orchid can grow as tall as 40cm but are usually shorter with an average height of 7-15cm. The plant produces as many as eight unspotted ovate green leaves which form a rosette at the base of the plant’s stem. Some of the plants narrower leaves might attach themselves to the plant’s stem in the form of a protective sheath.

The plant flowers by producing flower spikes which can house as much as 25 helmet-shaped flowers. These flowers are usually lilac to blackish purple in color and mostly, do not produce any identifiable scent. In addition, the flowers produce no nectar and their colorfulness is a deceptive attraction for pollinating insects. The period between April to June are the best times for seeing it bloom.

This orchid is best planted on  limestone-rich soil and is intolerant of chemical fertilisers.

Fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea)

Gymnadenia conopsea

The fragrant orchid is an herbaceous perennial, not unlike most orchids. It is also known as the marsh fragrant orchid and is native to northern Europe. It is fairly distributed across Europe, eastern Asia, and the Himalayas. 

Being a geophyte, the fragrant orchid has a number of underground bulbs or tubers from which its stem grows. Its stem is stripped or streaked and produces between 3-7 long gray-green leaves at the plant’s base.

It might also produce some bracts which are small modified leaves closer to the top of the stem. The fragrant orchid can reach heights of about 80cm at the maximum but usually average 20-60cm.

The fragrant orchid typically blooms in the period between May and July. The plant’s inflorescence is generally cylindrical and can hold as many as 200 individual flowers. Its flowers vary in color from pink to purple but are rarely white. They produce intense fragrance, especially in the evening or early morning, which has been likened to the smell of cloves. 

Orchis Purpurea

Orchis Purpurea

Also known as the lady orchid, the Orchis purpurea is another variety of orchid that has significant ties with the color purple. As a matter of fact “purpurea” is the Latin word for purple.

Orchis purpurea is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the orchid family. This orchid can be found growing in the wild in parts of Europe, Northern Africa and the Caucasus. The Orchis purpurea plant can grow as tall as 100cm and typically possess between 3-8 fleshy but erect leaves.

Its leaves appear glossy green and are unspotted. They usually form a rose-shaped arrangement at the base of the plant and protect the flower spike when produced.

This orchid usually blooms between April and June. At the point of blooming, it can produce flower spike having as many as 200 individual flowers attached to it.

Its flowers have the appearance of a woman dressed in a ball gown, hence the plant’s “lady” orchid name. The flowers are usually pale pink or white in color, but with their sepals and upper petals being significantly purple.

In cultivating the Orchis purpurea, chalk soil or limestone soil with full sun or partial shade is to be preferred.

Cattleya walkeriana

Cattleya walkeriana

Naturally, the Cattleya walkerina is typically either an epiphyte or lithophyte growing in its native habitat in the Brazilian Central Plateau. The Cattleya walkeriana is also known as the Queen of the Brazilian Savannah. As a “Queen”, the Cattleya walkeriana can naturally grow on surfaces as high as 2000 meters above sea level.

Physically, the Cattleya walkeriana consists of a number of joint bulbous stems which could be shiny yellow in color and which in turn produce one or two leaves as the Cattleya walkeriana is a bifoliate species. The leaves are described as being leathery to the touch and mostly elliptical or ovate in shape. 

The flowers produced by the Cattleya walkeriana can grow up to 4½ inches, have a heavy texture and are usually in varying shades of purple. The Cattleya walkeriana typically blooms in the spring and its flowering can last for up to a month. The Cattleya walkeriana has a very strong fragrance. Its scent is likened to the smell of cinnamon and/or vanilla.

In growing the Cattleya walkeriana, it should be noted that this Orchid requires exposure to high light and brightness for it to bloom; is intolerant of high humidity and would be best suited to being positioned meters above ground.

Gurianthe skinneri

Gurianthe skinneri

Native to various countries in the South American continent,the gurianthe skinneri is the national flower of Costa Rica. This orchid grows naturally on the barks of trees in damp mountain forests as it is an epiphyte. 

This plant can grow as tall as 50cm. It produces only two leaves as it is bifoliate. These leaves can grow to lengths of 20cm and width of 5cm. The gurianthe skinneri starts flowering in the winter and extends into spring. The petals and sepals of the flowers produced usually pinkish-purple in color.

Phalaenopsis violacea

Phalaenopsis violacea

Native to the Andaman Islands, Nicobar Isands and Northwestern Sumatra, the Phalaenopsis violacea is a compact orchid specie that grows on the bark of trees in moist lowland forests. The Phalaenopsis violacea is a favorite choice as a parent in the creation of new orchid hybrids.

With its short stem and 10cm (maximum) long leaves, the Phalaenopsis violacea is a small sized plant. The Phalaenopsis violacea is popular for the exotic fragrance emanating from its flowers which are usually small and mostly violet in color. Its first fragrance has been said to be of a spicy cinnamon quality. The Phalaenopsis violacea tends to bloom chiefly in the spring. 

In growing this plant, deep shade, frequent watering and high humidity are the watchwords.

From all of the above, you can have an easy pick of the purple orchid that appeals the most to you.

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