Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae
Another orchid that is difficult to identify. It is recorded in Ireland and is sometimes referred to as Dactylorhiza occidentalis.
This is another robust-looking marsh-orchid (around 25cm tall), and there is much argument about its range due to confusion with other orchids including the Early Marsh-orchid. The flowers have broader and flatter lips (sometimes slightly recurved) with three shallow lobes, unlike Early Marsh-orchids which have distinctly recurved lips. The flowers of D. kerryensis are rose pink but sometimes darker purple or, rarely, white. There are up to 4 leaves which are often spotted on the upper surface.
This orchid is endemic to Ireland, where the extent of its distribution is much disputed.
The Irish Marsh-orchid favours neutral or slightly alkaline soils and is found on the edges of loughs, in dune slacks and in damp hollows in short-sward grassland. They cope well with open sunny positions.
The Irish Marsh Orchid flowers in May and June.
Hybrids and Varieties
Dactylorhiza occidentalis var. kerryensis always has unspotted leaves and is reported to be a shorter plant with smaller, paler flowers; it may be closely allied to the Southern Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa.
Dactylorhiza x dinglensis is a hybrid with Heath Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza maculata.
Dactylorhiza x aschersoniana is a hybrid with Early Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata.
Dactylorhiza x braunii is a hybrid with Common Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii and is reported from County Clare.
The genus name Dactylorhiza means 'finger-like roots', while the specific epithet kerryensis means 'from Kerry' and the synonymous name occidentalis means 'from the west'.
Pictures by kind permission of Simon Tarrant
The Plant List
Sue Parker (2009) Wild Orchids in The Burren; First Nature
Henrik Pedersen Field Guide to the Orchids of Europe and the Mediterranean (2019); Kew
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
If you found this information helpful, we are sure you would also like books on the Wild Orchids of Wales, of The Burren, and of the Algarve. Author-signed copies are available here...