07 May 2010


When I was out walking the dog one afternoon last week, I saw our grapegrower-winemaker neighbor J-N Guerrier out working on his vines. He was at the other end of a long row of vines and was with another person that I didn't recognize from that distance.

Des pentecôtes — wild orchids — in a field near Saint-Aignan
You can see our house off in the distance.

Callie and I turned off the gravel road and walked up the row towards J-N and the mystery person. It turned out to be an older lady who looked familiar but whom I hadn't met before. She was J-N's mother-in-law, it turned out. I could see a clear resemblance between her and her daughter C., J-N's wife.

These flowers are protected in certain parts of France,
but are plentiful here in Touraine.

I pointed out some pretty purple flowers growing in a field just at the edge of J-N's plot of vines, saying that I thought they were wild orchids. “Are they?” J-N's mother-in-law asked. “We've always called them « des pentecôtes »” — that would be Pentecost flowers in English. J-N's mother-in-law is probably in her 70s.

I don't know whether the word Pentecôte used as the name of a flower would be capitalized, or whether it would take a final S in the plural. Who knows?

A close-up, with Callie up ahead

In Christian tradition, La Pentecôte is a religious holiday that falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter Sunday. I assume that's approximately when these little orchids make their annual appearance in the fields all around Touraine, including these around the vineyards near Saint-Aignan.

I found the flowers listed by the name Pentecôte on the Belles Fleurs de France web site and also here and here.


  1. Orchidophiles call them orchis bouffon, these days, but their country name is Pentecôte. In English they are Green-winged Orchids, and the scientific Anacamptis morio. Another very similar species (Early Purple Orchid) is also known as Pentecôte. I am sure you are right about them being called Pentecôte because they flower at that time of year.

  2. The orchids are beautiful! I'm glad they are being protected in France. I enlarged the photo with Callie in the background- I was in France for a minute or two. Thanks for that.

  3. It took several concentrated looks before I realized that was Callie in the background. If you hadn't mentioned her, I never would have known.

  4. Lovely pictures, and as I got to the end of your post, I thought, "Susan will know." And there she was. Thanks, S.

  5. GORGEOUS! Such a romantic flower!



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