Dactylorhiza fuchsii - Common Spotted-orchid

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae

Dactylorhiza fuchsii - Common Spotted-orchid

Common this orchid may be, but it is no less beautifulfor that. The variations in colour and lip-markingsbetween specimens bear testimony to the diversity thatcan be found in a single orchid species.

Description

This orchid usually grows to between 20cm and 50cm tall, butspecimens up to 70cm in height can sometimes be found; this makes itgenerally taller than the Heath Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza maculata with which it is often confused.

The lipof the Common Spotted-orchid has an exaggerated centraltooth.

Distribution

Found throughout most of Britain and Ireland, the Common Spotted-orchid can be seen in many countries of mainland Europe including Slovenia, where it grows in its thousands on roadside verges.

Habitat

This orchid is very common in Wales, where we live, and pops up all over the place - in the sand dunes at many of our coastal nature reserves, on roadside verges, roundabouts and central reservations (they thrive there because of the limestone chippings used to assist with drainage) as well as in unimproved grassland sites.

Provided the soil conditions are calcareous and the ground has not been doused with pesticides and herbicides you are quite likely to find theCommon Spotted-orchid.

Flowering times

The peak flowering time for Common Spotted-orchid is June.

Also found in Wales are the hybrid with Southern Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa, - Dactylorhiza fuchsii x grandis - and the variety Dactylorhiza fuchsii var. rhodochila. The latter is rare, while the former is probably very common but may be easily confused with either or both parent plants.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii x grandis is a tall and robust plant with darkly-spotted leaves and deep-pink flowers. It is found where both parents occur, and occasionally where they apparently do not. This hybrid plant is capable of producing seed, and so hybrid swarms sometimes occur.

Common Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii var. rhodochila

Above: Dactylorhiza fuchsii var. rhodochila - Picture courtesy of Elaine Hagget...

Dactylorhiza fuchsii var. rhodochila is widespread throughout the UK but rare. The leaves of the plant are more heavily spotted and are also sometimes reported as being almost completely purple. The lip of the flower is also a distinguishing feature, having a block of dark purple colouring, due to excessive pigmentation, in the centre and with a paler border.

The specimens shown on this page were photographed in Wales inJune.

Reference sources

The Plant List

Anne and Simon Harrap (2005) Orchids of Britain and Ireland; A&C Black

Pierre Delforge (2005) Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; A&C Black


Sue Parker

We hope that you have found this information helpful. If so we are sure you would also find our book Wild Orchids of the Algarve - how, when and where to find them, by Sue Parker very useful. Buy your author-signed copy here...

Other nature books from First Nature...