This story was first published on May 13, 2014
Circulating message claims that attached images show the ‘Naked Man’ orchid, which has flowers that resemble tiny – and clearly male – figures.
The photographs are genuine. Many commentators have suggested that the images have been digitally manipulated and do not show a real plant. However, Orchis italica, aka the Naked Man orchid is certainly real and grows in various locations in the Mediterranean
FW: Exotic Orchid Flower called Hanging Naked Men!
Nature has a great sense of humour..!
This Exotic Orchid is called Hanging Naked Men………..
It is called Orchis Italica, or The Naked Man Orchid. So funny.
These rather amusing images circulate online and via email. According to the message that travels with the images, they depict the ‘Naked Man’ orchid. The orchid’s flowers are shaped like tiny human figures, complete with male appendages of varying sizes. Predictably, a number of self-proclaimed experts have declared the images to be ‘photoshopped’ and claimed that there are no such flowers.
However, the plants are in fact quite real. Orchis italica, more commonly called the Naked Man Orchid or the Italian Orchid, grows in various locations throughout the Mediterranean.
A write-up about the plant on First-Nature.com notes:
The Naked Man Orchid (which on close inspection resembles just that!) can grow up to 50 cm in height and is widespread throughout the Mediterranean often forming dense colonies.
And, an article about the orchid on the Wild Nature Spain blog explains:
The Orchis italica is known in English as the naked man orchid, due to the form of the individual flowers which resemble a naked male form. The spike is very densely packed with flowers of a purple-pink-whitish colour. The petals and sepals are all curved upwards forming a kind of helmet covering the column. The lip is long and has the shape of a man, with arms, legs and a third protuberance.
Of course, it is only our human propensity to give deeper meaning to natural shapes and patterns that make these particular flowers so striking to us. Other plant species have garnered similar reactions and have generated their own Internet memes. Nevertheless, such plants are beautiful and wondrous in their own right and need no human embellishments.