Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Orchidoideae
Tribe: Orchidae
Subtribe: Orchidinae
Alliance: Orchis
Genus: Orchis
Species: O. italica


At first glance the Naked Man Orchid - Orchis italica, does not appear to deserve its rather cheeky common name. Native to the Mediterranean, this species of orchid looks like many other European orchids with its bright pink, densely clustered flowers. However, bend down and take a closer look and you may not quite believe what you are seeing. Why? Because each individual flower looks remarkably like a naked man in all his glory.


Given the right conditions, the naked man orchid plan will appear in large clusters in the spring, flowering from late March to April. The flowers borne in a dense spike approximately 20 inches in height and can vary in colour from white to dark pink. They sometimes have darker spots on the lip and the hood has dark pink veins. It prefers to grow in a  low nutrient soil partial shade.

Like most plants whose shape give indications of organs or parts of the body that can be healed, this one is no different. Since Roman times, it has been used as a treatment for mens virility and as an aphrodisiac.

Luckily the naked man orchid is edible, in fact its tuberous root is particularly nutritious and can be made into a flour similar to arrowroot, known as salep. It’s used predominantly in Turkey in desserts and beverages, however its popularity has caused the naked man orchid to become a victim of its own success. Wild plants have been collected for centuries and because there is not enough sustainably grown production there has been a considerable decline in the wild orchid populations. It now has a 'threatened status' making it illegal to harvest wild plants or to export true salep powder.

For related articles click onto the following links:

Bulley's Primrose - Primula bulleyana  The Angel orchid - Habenaria Grandifloriformis  HOW TO GROW THE BAT FLOWER - Tacca chantrieri  THE ORCHID CACTUS - Disocactus ackermannii   THE ORCHID PRIMULA - Primula vialii The Swaddled Babies    THE WHITE EGRET FLOWER - Habenaria radiata


About the Author

The 'Seeds of Eaden' website is the brainchild of professional horticulturist and multi-award winning gardener Simon Eade. After six years of study; two years 'Retail Horticulture' at Hadlow College, then four years Commercial Horticulture at Greenwich University, Simon has worked in a number of 'fields' within the industry for over twenty years. Most notably, managing the prestigious Alexandra Palace garden centre in London. Since then he has become an internationally published writer, and author of the popular 'Garden of Eaden' blog.

Simon Eade is also a recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society's Banksian medal

You can contact the 'Seeds of Eaden' at