I’ve been waiting excitedly to tell you guys about these efflorescent exhibitionists for ages. I first spotted these light pink/purple flowers growing on a mountainside near my house last year and was struck by how pretty they were, but I didn’t think much more about them and just carried along my merry way. It was only when a friend of mine pointed out in a Facebook post that if you look carefully enough (and that’s the lesson here - ALWAYS look carefully enough) they look like “Lovely little curly wurly willy dancing man orchids, or are they dancing ladies with tails?” - that I had to rush outside and go racing back to check that it wasn’t some kind of Photoshop trick. It’s not. Trust me, they really do.
How absolutely amazing is that? It blew my mind a little… They are also wearing what some people have described as a huge hat (but I personally like to imagine are a big pair of floppy pixie ears) and to top it all off - they even have mischievous little faces painted on as well.
Now, I would go the conservative route and tell you that my friend was right with her second guess of calling them “dancing ladies with tails”, and of course it is open to interpretation, however, a little research, a.k.a asking the green keyboarded members of Gardening in Portugal Facebook group, revealed that my friend wasn’t the first person to look attentively enough to spot these well endowed little pixie men (and make what I would consider a massive botanical discovery). They are the ‘Orchis italica’ - and are already commonly known as the ‘Naked Man Orchid’. They are found all over the Mediterranean but they were first spotted in Italy. It seems that the Italians even took these pink flower mens ‘well equipped’ physique as a sort of ‘divine hint’, and took to grinding up the plant’s root (tuber) into a yellowish-white powder called ‘salep’, which they add to bread or cereals as it’s said to be good for, you guessed it, ‘virility’.
During my research for this story I found out that you want to make a point of giving all orchids a second glance, as a lot of them seem to be in the habit of throwing curious ‘life-like’ curve-balls into their floral displays. Those with a keen eye have spotted ballerinas dancing inside the ‘Caladenia melanoma’, beautiful white winged angels fluttering around the ‘Habenaria grandifloriformis’, the ‘Orchis purpurea’ is surrounded by pretty ladies in purple dresses and the ‘Caleana major’ unravels into a flying duck - and these are just some examples.
Anyway, I saw these ‘natural naturists’ last year around March, and I’ve been waiting patiently for them to pop their heads up above ground again - and I just spotted the first bright cluster springing up last week.
So, this is just a bit of a heads up - if you are still a little dubious that nature can really be THIS playful, then I invite you to keep your eyes peeled for these flashy pink pixie flowers and check them out for yourselves. Top tip - they like to sunbathe.