Wild Flower Wednesday. Giant orchid. – Himantoglossum robertianum

I am joining in with Clay and Limestone‘s meme of Wild flower Wednesday this month. I discovered this amazing orchid last week growing on the roadside near Grimaud on the Cote d’Azur in France. My scream of ‘Stop the Car!’ nearly caused an accident. Fortunately we found somewhere to park the car safely and walk back to have a look. It obviously was an Orchid but I had no idea they came as big as this.  To find such an enormous Orchid in bloom in February was quite surreal. It has large glossy green leaves and a flower spike of pinky- purple flowers which apparently  can be as tall as a metre  high although these weren’t  quite as big as that.

All this and fragrance too. It smells lightly of violets.

The name of this orchid was Barlia robertiana until as recently as 1999.  Jean-Baptiste Barla was a French botanist and Gaspard Nicolas Robert was also a botanist . This lovely orchid was named after both of them.  Now it has been reclassified as  Himantoglossum which are lizard orchids. However there is still disagreement about the classification so it could change again. Perhaps we could stick with Giant Orchid and then there is no confusion. The orchid is quite localised in several Mediterranean countries.

I found another bigger area of them a day or two later on the coast and was upset to see that some of them had been dug up. I am sure they are on the red list and so protected. Not only is digging up these beautiful plants illegal, selfish and irresponsible but it is most likely a death sentence for the plant. They are unlikely to thrive in the garden where the fungus they depend on is absent.


Thank you to Gail of Clay and Limestone for hosting this meme of Wildflower Wednesday on the fourth Wednesday of every month. Why don’t you join in?

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34 Responses to Wild Flower Wednesday. Giant orchid. – Himantoglossum robertianum

  1. Julie says:

    What a wonderful plant. Well said Chloris, removing wild plants denies others the thrill of discovery and as you rightly say they are unlikely to survive. Your cry of stop the car made me laugh, I can identify with that!

  2. Annette says:

    What a beauty, Chloris! And so many of them and early too. We have H. hircinum here, and I was excited like yourself when I spotted it for the first time last year. It’s a privilege to see orchids and wildflowers like this. Glad you share it with us 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      How wonderful to have Himantoglossum hircinum near you, now that is the real Lizard orchid isn’t it? I’ve only ever seen it in pictures. It’s a beauty. Does it really smell of goats?

      • Annette says:

        You made me laugh, Cloris! I actually did get very close while shooting it but didn’t stick my nose in. I promise to do it this spring 😉

  3. Alison says:

    Oh, I would love to have been in the car when you screamed for it to stop! I probably would have been screaming too. What a stunning wildflower to find at the side of the road. And what a shame that someone dug some of them up. Thanks for sharing this experience with us.

    • Chloris says:

      It was so big that I thought it was some kind of Eucomis at first glance. The wrong season of course but then I had no idea that Orchids bloomed in February either.

  4. Kris P says:

    A wildflower orchid – how wonderful!

  5. Chloris says:

    It is, it’s a beauty.

  6. Pauline says:

    Fantastic, you found a beautiful flower. I too yell for the car to stop when I see some beautiful flowers!

  7. just magnificent. How wonderful.D.

  8. That is amazing Chloris – I have never seen anything like that & in February – do you think it is because it has been a mild winter in France or is this the normal flowering time?

  9. What an amazing plant! And exciting to stumble upon unexpectedly! When will some people realise that to dig up wild flowers is a no-no on so many levels? So selfish! They should be enjoyed where they like to grow.

  10. Anna says:

    Now that’s a stunner Chloris but how sad to read that there are people who are not content to stop and admire but instead remove them from their natural environment. Most relieved to read that an accident was averted 🙂

  11. Robbie says:

    surreal indeed! We have more snow coming + below zero all weekend…( long sigh). Love your photos:-)

  12. Chloris says:

    Thank you, Robbie.
    Oh no, not more snow. It seems to be endless for you.

  13. Shirley says:

    Those are gorgeous and unusual plants you have shared with us. So beautiful in the wild. It’s so disappointing that someone removed a few and hopefully the remaining plants will continue to spread.

  14. Chloris says:

    It was new to me, I was bowled over by it. It’s fabulous.

  15. Alain says:

    It is a beautiful plant. Like all orchids it is a bit “out of this world”, isn’t it? They are not related to Triffids by any chance? I don’t suppose so. If they were, they could defend themselves against plant poachers.

  16. Chloris says:

    Well, I think the giant ones could have a dash of Triffid blood, but as far as I know they stay in one place so we don’ t need to worry.

  17. bittster says:

    Cool plant, thanks for sharing! Orchids always seem a bit odd to me, but always fascinating… and even more so when they’re just growing wild. I hope they always find a spot to grow unbothered.

  18. Flighty says:

    A fascinating plant. It’s a shame when people dig them up like that. xx

  19. Lizard orchids! Somehow that name suits them. Very striking.

  20. Chloris says:

    Yes they do look a bit lizard-like, Alain asked if they are related to Triffids. Perhaps they are.

  21. Chloris says:

    Wow! Is just what I thought.

  22. David says:

    I live now in Nice and just discovered this today on Mont Boron. More scattered, but lots of them, interestingly not in the areas where people walk – I suspect they get picked. I had to do some scrambling to see them.
    Your story about ‘stop the car’ reminds me that when I moved to Canada many years ago from the UK I did exactly the same thing when I see Trilliums. Huge patch by the highway – I nearly caused a multi-car pileup. In the UK you get one flower in a specialist’s garden and everyone comes to pay homage!

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