by Stephen Mifsud
   16 Jun 2019      ()
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Images for this profile are taken from the Maltese Islands at or after year 2000.

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Nomenclature and Basic Information Images
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Profile Date Mar-2004 (last update: 12-Jan-2019)
Citation for this page Mifsud, S. (Mar-2004) retrieved from on 2019-Jun-16

Nomenclature and Basic Information

Species name :

Synonyms :

Basionym or principal synonym: No Main Synonyms
Full list of synonyms : [ Euro+Med ]   [ PlantList ]   [ IPNI ]   [ Catalogue of Life ]

Plant Family :

The Family 0 species recorded from Malta.

English name(s) :

Maltese name(s) :

Status for Malta :

Frequency :

Very Common     Common     [Frequent]     Scarce     Rare     Very rare     Extinct

Growth form :

Raunkiaer lifeform [info]: Soon to be updated...
Germination [info]:

Legal Protection [link]:

Not Protected by Law (LN200/2011 or LN311/2006)

Red List (1989) :

Not listed in the Red Data Book of the Maltese Islands

Flowering Time :

Plant description and characters

Life Cycle:


Growth Form:

Soon to be updated...




Localities in Malta:

Frequent, particularly common at Dingli Cliffs, garigue near Gnien il-Haddiem in Dingli, Ghajn Tuffieha, Pembroke, Bingemma, etc.

Plant Height:

10 - 20cm.

Flowering Period:

Protection in Malta:

Not Protected by Law (LN200/2011 or LN311/2006)

Red List 1989:

Not listed in the Red Data Book of the Maltese Islands


Unlikely to be poisonous.

The beauty of this plant is often not noticed since it grows low (about 10cm) and so it could be partially covered by higher surrounding vegetation. This orchid forms basal rosette of leaves which are lanceolate in shape and about 60-80mm long and 15-25mm wide. The glabrous leaves are green to light green in colour, have a smooth outline and a parallel venation. Some leaves are found up along the flowering stem, and these become distinct (not in a rosette arrangement) and have a sheath at the base around the stem.

The flowers are arranged in a dense spike on a common and single, fleshy flowering stalk. The cluster of flowers grows out close together around the fleshy stem and forms an overall shape of a cone, and hence the plant's name - conical orchid. The number of flowers varies from plant to plant but at least about 20. Each flower have 6 tepals and arranged as follows: A lower layer of 3 'sepals' and an upper layer of 3 'petals'. The two layers are very close to each other, nearly at the same locus and are often collectively called as tepals.

The sepals are at the back side of the flower and form a semi-spherical pouch in which the reproductive organs lay. These are white in colour with vertical green stripes. The 3 sepals are arranged as 2 upper, identical, small petals which are white and green in colour and a lower large, modified, 3-lobed, highly coloured petal which is referred to as the lip or labellum (pl. = labia). The labellum have a purple/pink border (on closer look it results to be dense number of pigmented spots) which fades away to a whitish center. On the white center there are further some large, prominent, purple spots at random order.

The reproductive organs are very small and united into a single column with 3 lower stigma (2 fertile and a sterile one called rostellum) and above there are the 2 large stamens (pollinia). The whole structure is reddish brown in colour and deep inside the complex structure of flower, yet still visible from outside. The flower also have a long, closed tube-like structure (called the spur) where nectar is secreted and makes the flower have a mild fragrance. The spur is located at the base of the labellum just below the stigma.

The flowers develop into the fruit, which are green oval capsules that produce numerous tiny seeds. These escape when the ripe fruit splits open. The plant develops asexually from division of tubers, or sexually from the seeds, the former being much more successful.

Information, uses and other details

General protection of wild Orchids

It is a well known fact that the Wild Orchids are in danger of disappearing from the wild. It is hence very important not to cut these flowers despite their curious beauty. Every plant makes just one single flowering stem, and cutting will simply mean destroying the whole flowering cycle as it will not form another flower stem during that year. Large efforts and dedicated time were involved to to include here large, excellent quality and high resolution photos of this plant (using special and expensive photographic accessories) for the purpose so that people at home can admire the beauty of this plant from these photos [SM]

In this profile's photo gallery you find 2 very large photos for printing purposes. You can print it up to a poster size and admire it without the need of cuting the flowers! Alternatively, just take the challenge and fun of it - take your own good photos of this plant without cutting. [SM]

Personal Observations

Like many orchids, this plant is feasible for hybridization by cross-fertilizing a species with pollen from another different species. If the two species are different in their physical characteristics (phenotype) the offspring would result in a number of variants with different physical characteristics obtained from the parent plants, due to the random process of genetic recombination. For this reason one would find species in the wild which exhibit slightly different features especially in the colour, shape, and spots of the labellum. Sometimes the plants becomes quite different from the 'norm' phenotype and this may mislead or confuse botanists. [SM]

Here is an excellent example of hybridization between O. ursulata and O. conica showing both parents and offspring in one photo.

First to flower amongst the Orchids of Malta
Orchis conica is one of the first flowering orchids in Malta. It is normally in flower by the end of January, depending on seasonal weather conditions. Other common early flowering Orchids are Ophrys mesaritica (which flowes in the beginning of January) and Orchis collina which flowers at the same time with O. conicaa.

Short Notes
The leaves are often found edge-pitted or half eaten. The responsible herbivore is not a mammal but snails. Sometimes you could note the resting feeder few cm away from the plant. [SM]

Since the nectar is in the 8mm long spur, the pollinator insect must have a tongue extending to about this length.

It is normal that this wild plant does not produce any seeds at all and just reproduces by formation of underground tubers. [SM]

Not much information about this plant has been found, neither in books nor on the Internet. If you can supply further information to be included in this profile, please, do not hesitate to email me. Full reference credits will be given.

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Links & Further info

Google Web

Google Images

Yahoo Web

Yahoo Images




Med Checklist

Cat. of Life



The Plant List


Vienna Virt. Hb.





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Use this form to submit more information on this species or report mistakes in this webpage. If information supplied is taken from a book, journal or website, please provide the corresponding reference or website address. Your email address is only for internal communication. Please report only Maltese locations for plants that indicated as rare or very rare (refer to the Nomenclature section). Please do report mistakes, broken links, technical errors, silly typing / grammar errors, misidentifications or taxonomical updates; this will help to improve the website's accuracy. Thanks you! Fill any of the three sections (A/B/C) below and kindly submit the form.     * = required fields.
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Section B:   Where have you seen this plant on the Maltese Islands?
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Try to be as concise as possible. Examples: Dingli Cliffs (near chapel), Wied Incita (Zebbug side), Triq il-Kbira (Qormi), Barriera ta' Ghajn Abdul (Xlendi), Fields East of Salib tal-gholja (Siggiewi). GPS co-ordinates are also welcomed!
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