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purples — “Long,” HAMLET, iv. 7. 170. “This is the early purple orchis (Orchis mascula), which blossoms in April and May; it grows in meadows and pastures, and is about ten inches high; the flowers are purple, numerous, and in long spikes. The poet refers to another name by which this flower was called by liberal shepherds, and says that
‘Cold maids did [do] dead men's fingers call them.’
From this I consider that the cold maids mistook one of the other orchids, having palmated roots, for long purples. The Orchis mascula has two bulbs, and is in many parts of England called by a name that liberal shepherds used, and which is found in the herbals of Shakspere's time. The spotted palmate orchis (Orchis maculata) and the marsh orchis (Orchis latifolia) have palmated roots, and are called ‘dead men's fingers,’ which they somewhat resemble.” Beisly's Shakspere's Garden, etc., p. 160.

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