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Himantoglossum hircinum

Himantoglossum hircinum (*)

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Monocots
Ordo: Asparagales

Familia: Orchidaceae
Subfamilia: Orchidoideae
Tribus: Orchideae
Subtribus: Orchidinae
Genus: Himantoglossum
Species: Himantoglossum hircinum
Varietates: (2)
H. h. var. hircinum – H. h. var. pseudocaprinum

Himantoglossum hircinum (L.) Spreng., Syst. Veg. 3: 694 (1826).

Type species:


Satyrium hircinum L., Sp. Pl.: 944 (1753).
Orchis hircina (L.) Crantz, Stirp. Austr. Fasc., ed. 2, 2: 484 (1769).
Loroglossum hircinum (L.) Rich., De Orchid. Eur.: 32 (1817).
Aceras hircinum (L.) Lindl., Gen. Sp. Orchid. Pl.: 282 (1835).

Native distribution areas:

Northern Europe
Great Britain.
Middle Europe
Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Switzerland.
Southwestern Europe
France, Spain.
Southeastern Europe
Bulgaria, Italy, Romania, Sicilia, Turkey-in-Europe, Yugoslavia.
Northern Africa
Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia.
Western Asia

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Sprengel, C. 1826. Caroli Linnaei, ... Systema vegetabilium. Ed. 16. Vol. III: Classis 16–23. 936 pp. Sumtibus Librariae Dieterichianae, Gottingae [Göttingen]. BHL Reference page. : 694.


Global Biodiversity Information Facility. 2021. GBIF Backbone Taxonomy. Checklist dataset. Taxon: Himantoglossum hircinum. Accessed: 2021 May 10.
Govaerts, R. et al. 2021. Himantoglossum hircinum in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2021 May 10. Reference page.
Govaerts, R. et al. 2021. Himantoglossum hircinum in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2021 May 10. Reference page.
Hassler, M. 2021. Himantoglossum hircinum. World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World In: Roskovh, Y., Abucay, L., Orrell, T., Nicolson, D., Bailly, N., Kirk, P., Bourgoin, T., DeWalt, R.E., Decock, W., De Wever, A., Nieukerken, E. van, Zarucchi, J. & Penev, L., eds. 2021. Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life. Published online. Accessed: 2021 May 10. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2021. Himantoglossum hircinum. Published online. Accessed: 10 May 2021. 2021. Himantoglossum hircinum. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published online. Accessed: 10 May 2021.

Vernacular names

čeština: Jazýček kozlí
Deutsch: Bocks-Riemenzunge
English: Lizard orchid
español: Orquídea del Lagarto
فارسی: ارکیده مارمولکی
français: Orchis bouc
hornjoserbsce: Wšědna byklinka
magyar: Bakbűzű sallangvirág
italiano: Barbone caprino
Nederlands: Bokkenorchis
polski: Himantoglossum cuchnące
slovenčina: Jazýčkovec kozí

Himantoglossum hircinum, the lizard orchid, is a species of orchid in the genus Himantoglossum found in Europe and North Africa.

Pale flowered specimen

Himantoglossum hircinum is a perennial herbaceous plant, reaching a height of 115 centimetres (45 in). It persists in the soil as a pair of ovoid/subglobose tubers, with short roots. Its leaves are 5-20cm long, with basal leaves larger than aerial leaves and the plant is glabrous. Flowers are green-white with a long twisting/coiled labellum which may be tinged with a variety of colours; white, green, purple or brown. Flowers strongly smell of male goats.[1]

A similar looking species called Himantoglossum adriaticum is found in Eastern Europe.
Habitat and distribution

This orchid grows in dry meadows, rocky areas, and open woods. It tends to grow on south-facing grassy slopes, among Bromus and Brachypodium grasses.[2] In France it is often found on roadsides. In the United Kingdom it grows to a maximum altitude of 850m.[3]

This species is found across Europe, from Spain eastwards to the Balkans and in western North Africa. It is usually rare but can sometimes be found in great numbers in suitable habitats. Examples of sites for this species include among sand dunes at Sandwich Bay in the United Kingdom, Massif Central in France and the Mugello Valley in Italy.[4]

Himantoglossum hircinum is a food-deceptive orchid species, meaning the flowers generally provide no nectar to their pollinators.[5] The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland states however that some plants have been found to provide nectar to pollinators, and that it remains unclear which species are the principal pollinators of the lizard orchid, although they suggest Andrena bees.[6]

It has been suggested that H. hircinum is a mycorrhizal generalist, though some have questioned this, due to the species' limited distribution, and the issue remains unresolved.[7]

Orchinol, loroglossol and hircinol are phenanthrenoids that can be isolated from infected Loroglossum hircinum.[8]

This is a rare species with protected status in the United Kingdom and Germany and possibly other countries.[9]

The 'lizard' in the plant's English common-name refers to the shape and colour of the flowers. The Latin genus Himantoglossum means 'strap-tongue', after the shape of the flower labellum and the species epithet 'hircinum' means 'of goats', after the smell the flowers produce.[10] In German the plant is known as 'Bocks Riemenzunge', which translates as 'buck's (ie. goat's) strap-tongue'. The French name 'l'orchis bouc' means 'buck (ie. goat) orchid'.

Journal of Ecology - Himantoglossum hircinum
Journal of Ecology - Himantoglossum hircinum
Journal of Ecology - Himantoglossum hircinum
Sandwich Bay and Hacklinge Marshes SSSI citation
New Zealand Journal of Botany - Himantoglossum hircinum (lizard orchid) reviewed in the light of new morphological and molecular observations
BSBI Species Accounts - Himantoglossum hircinum
New Journal of Botany - Morphometric, molecular, ontogenetic and demographic observations on selected populations of the Lizard Orchid, Himantoglossum hircinum
Structure of Orchinol, Loroglossol, and Hircinol. Roy M. Letcher and Llewellyn R. M. Nhamo, J. Chem. Soc., Perkin Trans. 1, 1973, pages 1263-1265, doi:10.1039/P19730001263
BSBI Species Accounts - Himantoglossum hircinum
Orchids of Britain and Ireland: A Field and Site Guide - Genus Himantoglossum

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