Common this orchid may be, but it is no less beautiful for that. The variations in colour and lip-markings between specimens bear testimony to the diversity that can be found in a single orchid species.
This orchid grows to around 20 cm to 50 cm but specimens up to 70 cm can be found which makes it generally taller than the Heath Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata) with which it is often confused. The lip of the Common Spotted-orchid has an exaggerated central tooth. Provided the soil conditions are calcareous the Common Spotted-orchid can pop up almost anywhere, in dune slacks, meadows and on roadside verges.
This orchid can be found in many countries in Europe including Slovenia where it grows in its thousands on roadside verges.
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.
Also found in Wales are the hybrid with Southern Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) - Dactylorhiza fuchsii xgrandis, and the variety Dactylorhiza fuchsii var. rhodochila. The latter is rare, but the former is probably very common but is frequently confused with either or both parent plants.
Dactylorhiza fuchsii xgrandis 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. The plant is capable of producing seed and so hybrid swarms sometimes occur.
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 with a paler border.
The specimens on this page were photographed in Wales in June.