Soldier orchids. By Natalia Goldin.These orchids form the group of military, or soldier, orchids: Orchis militaris. Their name arises from the similarity of the flowers to the soldier imagе.
One can take the soldier orchid as simple meadow flower among the romantically green grass, but the close inspection immediately show us the typical soldier, with helmet and certainly male figure. Between two lobes of bifurcated lip (lower petal of flower) there is a shorter prominent shoot. It is funny, but no one described this flower as Red Cap…
Maybe this flower is fertilized by young ladies? Yes, but not that ladies. Orchis is pollinated by solitary bees. Why soldier flower attracts that bees remains unknown. The fact that probably several bee species pollinate soldier orchid allow us to suggest that visual image is not the main attractant for pollinator.
The group includes about thirty species of terrestrial orchids distributed from Europe (including Sweden) to Chine and having tubers instead of pseudobulbs. (Note: pseudobulbs and tubers carry the same function of food storage, but pseudobulb is originated from stem of sympodial orchid, while the tuber – from root. Therefore, the pseudobulb is located rather above the soil, and the tuber is rather below.)
The plants grow on poorly fertilized calcareous substrates at full light. The erect inflorescence is combined of group of small flowers of pinkish tones (from off-white to purple).
Probably you can try to grow the soldier orchid in your garden. In Israel, calcareous soils are
widespread from North to Center and Jerusalem region. The fact that England full light is our shadow or semi-shadow
should be taken into account.
Protect orchids from biting wind and frost. The main problem will be to keep the soil constantly damp, especially at the warm months. However, the certain resistance of Orchis was described. Sometimes, the orchid will not develop the over ground parts (foliage and flowers) for one or several years, but it remains alive and will grow and bloom on a next season.
The second serious problem to grow soldier orchid is the fact that recently all the wild orchids are protected by the low, their collection from nature is forbidden. The collection can be permitted only from the areas to be destroyed, for example by the building.
Volatile oil of strong and pleasant odor can be extracted from this orchid. The much more interesting is the fact, that tubers of military orchids are used for preparation of salep – the traditional eastern dessert or drink, which is very rich in nutrients and assumed to have medicinal and aphrodisiac features.