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a genus of plants of the family Orchidaceae. The plants are perennial herbs with straight, usually leafy, stems. The tubers are entire in some species and palmately dissected in others. (In the latter case, the plants are sometimes classified in the genus Dactylorhiza.) The flowers are irregular and in spicate inflorescences. The perianth consists of six bracts: the central bract is usually three-lobed with a spur at the base, and three others or the remaining five are formed into a galea. The fruit is a capsule.

There are about 100 species, distributed in Eurasia (primarily in the temperate belt), in North Africa, on the Canary Islands, on Madeira Island, and in North America. The USSR has about 40 species. O. militaris, which has oval entire tubers and spicate inflorescences of pink or light violet flowers, grows in the forest zone along the edge of forests, in forest meadows, and in floodplain meadows. O. maculata, which has palmately dissected tubers, grows in boggy forests and meadows in the European USSR. O. mascula is found in the European USSR and the Caucasus.

The tubers of some species are used as food and are a source of salep (dried tubers), which is used to prepare a mucilaginous decoction for coating the digestive tract in the case of inflammation. The preparation is taken orally or by means of an enema. Some species are cultivated as ornamentals.


References in periodicals archive ?
The rare bird-life and rarer flowers, Bog cotton, purple orchises, The bogs with treacherous surfaces Mid which he spent his happiest hours.
I noticed that the plants which cover the forest floor there are such as are commonly confined to swamps with us,--the Clintonia borealis, orchises, creeping snowberry, and others; and the prevailing aster there is the Aster acuminatus, which with us grows in damp and shady woods.
Orchises Press, 2001), Raiding a Whorehouse (Easthampton, MA: Adastra Press, 2004), and Permanent Party (Greensboro, NC: March Street Press, 2005); W.