H. Perennial & Old Fashioned Garden Plants & Flowers by John Wood
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Orchis Fusca - Hardy Perennial
Author: John Wood
Orchis Fusca Described.
Orchis Fusca - Brown Orchis; Nat. Ord. Orchidaceæ.
A rare and noble British species, terrestrial, and having a tuberous root of moderate size; the specific name does not always apply, as this species varies considerably in the colour of its flowers—certainly all are not brown. According to Gray, the flowers are "large, greenish-brown, brownish-purple, or pale ash grey;" the specimen from which our illustration was drawn may be said to be "brownish-purple," from its great number of brown spots; it is also slightly tinged with green. According to Linnæus, it is synonymous with O. Militaris, the Soldier, or Brown Man Orchis. Of the native kinds of Orchis, many of which are now getting very scarce, it is desirable to know what's what. But, as a garden flower, the one now under consideration has many points of merit. The plant is bold and portly, and the foliage ample compared with many of the genus. The head of flowers is large, numerous, and well lifted up, while, far from their least good quality, is that of their fine aromatic perfume.
The full size of a flower is shown in the drawing. The sepals are seen to be broad, converging, and pointed; the lip, which is rough, is three-parted; lobes, unequal and ragged; the side ones are long and narrow, the middle lobe is twice notched in an irregular manner; the spur is straight with the stem; bracts, short; the flowers are densely produced, forming a compact bunch 3in. to 4in. long, on a spike rather over a foot tall; they continue in perfection three weeks or a month. The leaves are 9in. or more in length, lance-shaped, and fully an inch broad in the middle; they are of a pale, shining, green colour, the root leaves resting on the ground.
I find this Orchid capable of withstanding very rough treatment, but it requires some time (two years) to get fairly established. Silky loam and leaf soil are suitable for it; a moist situation, but in no way of a stagnant character, should be given, and the position should also be carefully selected, so as to secure the brittle and top-heavy flower spikes from strong winds, otherwise it will suffer the fate of hundreds of tulips after a gale. It is propagated by root division after the foliage has died off.
Flowering period, end of May to end of June.
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