Early purple orchid (Orchis mascula)
Collins, 288; Readers Digest, 400
This lovely early-seen orchid is the most commonly occurring orchid in the region and is frequently found in undisturbed woodland, scrub and grassland. It has a long flowering season of April to June. The flowers are purple and sometimes pink-purple or white. The leaves are green and pointed blotched with purplish-black. A good wood to observe this plant is Spong Wood nearby at Elmsted. According to an early Greek physician, the plant was used by married couples to help determine the sex of their offspring. If men ate the large tuber boys would be born and if women ate the small tuber this would bring forth girls. Myth has it that the plant grew beneath the Cross of Christís crucifixion and that the spots on its leaves are drops of his blood.