Information on Fly Orchid

Common Name: Fly Orchid
Scientific Name: Ophrys insectifera
Irish Name: Magairlín na gcuileanna
Family Group: Orchidaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Fly Orchid is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.


The Fly Orchid is one of the small group of Orchids which mimic insects in order to attract visitors. 'Pollination by pseudocopulation' is the scientific term for this pretence whereby a plant emits the scent and has the appearance of an insect. By this impersonation, an insect is drawn to the orchid and while trying to mate with the flower, pollen is gathered onto its body to be distributed onto the next orchid. Fly Orchid is quite distinctive with its yellow-green sepals and the long, divided, red-brown lower lip of the flower. This velvety lip (or labellum) has a shiny, silvery-white band across it, just below the lip's two little lobes. It also has two tiny little red-brown upper petals projecting like tiny goat's horns. These flowers are carried in a loose spike of four to ten with long bracts curving upward behind each flower. There are usually three shiny oval leaves from which the stem arises, reaching about 45–50 cm. Fly Orchid blooms in May and June, it grows on limestone pavement, scrub and dry calcareous soils. A native plant it belongs to the Orchidaceae family.     

I was so very fortunate to be shown this plant, growing in the Burren, by Dr Matthew Jebb, Taxonomist of the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin on a wildflower walk organised by Burren Beo. This was in 2010 when I also photographed it.

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Orchid, Fly
Orchid, Fly

This species is classed as NEAR THREATENED in the Red Data List of Vascular Plants 2016.

To learn more about our Irish orchids, I would heartily recommend a really superb book on the subject which is published by the Collins Press and entitled 'Ireland's Wild Orchids - a field guide'. 

Each of our native orchids is beautifully illustrated by the gifted botanical artist, Susan Sex and is an exquisite representation of an amazing plant; Susan's illustrations are complemented by carefully-chosen words from our National Botanic Gardens orchid specialist, Brendan Sayers. Susan's illustrations of key features of our native orchids are extremely useful when trying to identify a species and Brendan's descriptions help to broaden one's understanding of this complex and intriguing subject, and lead one nearer to making a possible identification. He also contributes information on the conservation of these magnificent little plants and gives details of where they might be found. Please seek out this masterpiece from your usual bookseller or find it on http://www.collinspress.ie/irelands-wild-orchids.html