Neottia nidus-avis grows to 40 cm (16 in) tall and each shoot can carry up to 60 flowers. Plants are not in any part green, deriving all their nutrition from a mycorrhizal fungus in the soil/litter, which in turn derives nutrition from the roots of trees. Plants are generally beige-brown, though sometimes yellowish or white forms are discovered. The flower labellum splits and strongly diverges at its lower end. This species of orchid can be hard to spot, being camouflaged against the leaf litter. Across Europe, this species flowers May-June.