Common fragrant-orchid

Common Fragrant-orchid

©Philip Precey

Common fragrant-orchid

Scientific name: Gymnadenia conopsea
The Common fragrant-orchid lives up to its name: it produces a sweet, orangey smell that is very strong in the evening. Look for its densely packed, pink flower spikes on chalk grasslands in summer.

Species information


Height: up to 40cm

Conservation status


When to see

June to July


The Common fragrant-orchid is a robust, medium-sized orchid found on dry and damp grasslands, particularly with chalky soils. Clustering to form cylindrical, densely packed flower spikes, the flowers themselves are usually pink, but can vary from purple to white. In bloom during June and July, the Common fragrant-orchid lives up to its name by producing a sweet, orangey smell that is particularly strong in the evening.

How to identify

The Common fragrant-orchid displays clusters of pink flowers that have a three-lobed lip, a hood and a long spur trailing behind them. The cylindrical head of flowers can measure up to 15cm in height. A few, narrow, green leaves appear at the base of the plant and up the stem.


Mainly found in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Southern England and Wales.

Did you know?

The three common varieties of fragrant-orchid were once considered to be a subspecies of the common type, but have recently been classified as separate species: Common fragrant-orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea), Marsh fragrant-orchid (Gymnadenia densiflora) and Heath fragrant-orchid (Gymnadenia borealis). Their names reflect the places they can be found, with the Common fragrant-orchid appearing mostly on chalky soils.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many grassland habitats sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife. Careful grazing with traditional breeds, hay-cutting at the right time and scrub clearance are just some of the ways grasslands are kept in good condition. By volunteering for your local Trust you can help too, and you'll make new friends and learn new skills along the way.