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Birdsnest Orchid

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

A parasitic orchid occasionally found in shady beech woodlands



  • Birdsnest Orchid: the root of the matter

    Post date: Monday, 23 June, 2014 - 00:00

    There is certainly something special about orchids and one always has a sense of seeing something special when one encounters one (or lots!). They are quite different in appearance to other floral families and even within the orchids you find many variations. The bird's-nest orchid (Neottia nidus-avis) is certainly unique amongst British orchids as it is parasitic and therefore does not have chlorophyll. The result is a pale coloured plant tinged with yellow rather than green and with no leaves. 

    I said orchids were unique and different in appearance to other flowers but there is always an exception to every rule! This one could easily be mistaken at first glance for other parasitics plants such as the broomrapes or toothwort so care needs to be taken. The bird's-nest orchid, however, is usually found in woodland and predominantly under beech trees and that is very different habitat to broomrapes which are generally parasites of grassland flowers such as wild carrot, knapweed, bedstraw and the like. Toothwort is parasitic on hazel so that helps separate the two similar species.

    It gets its name from the appearance of its roots rather than from the appearance of its flower.

    The bird's-nest orchid is quite common in parts of Europe and whilst not rare in Britain it is far from common here. It can be found in suitable woodland to the north and west of Dorset.


Common Name Birdsnest Orchid
Scientific Name Neottia nidus-avis
Species Group Orchid Family Orchidaceae
Interest Level
Look for
Identification Notes
Primary Habitat
Family Orchid family - Orchidaceae
Status Scarce
Flower Colour Group Brown
Preferred Environment
Look for Dead-looking orchid spikes under beech trees
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Orchid Family Orchidaceae