Dactylorhiza fuchsii | Common Spotted Orchid

Dactylorhiza fuchsii with pale upper petals and clear markings

Mike Powell (whose blog features wonderful pictures of insects) recently asked if ‘common’ is appropriate in a name. I know what he means. And even though these are our most common orchid, growing wild in deserted quarries, woodland, meadows, hedgerows and along footpaths, I caught myself hesitating before tagging them ‘wildflowers’.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii aren’t all that common in and around Darwen, so they are always a treat. I have certainly never seen a pale pink carpet of them. Fingers crossed for one year!

Close up of common spotted orchid

Common spotted orchids are taller than you might expect and their colours and markings vary. Each individual floret reminds me of an insect, hovering in formation on guard around the spike.

While the lower petals are covered in wavy bee lines, the ‘spotted’ part of their name comes from the leaves which are green with purple-brown spots. Apparently the rarest ones have leopard-style spots with a paler colour inside the blotch.

The common spotted orchids I know of grow among grass near footpaths. That’s not saying a lot as there are so many footpaths here. Walkers will find one going pretty much anywhere they’d want to go, often with short diversions built (or rather trampled) in for puddle seasons.

These orchids were mainly photographed during walks to Entwistle Reservoir in Lancashire, an area I mentioned in an earlier post.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii bright and pale pink orchids

Yesterday, I went out on a quest to find leaves to photograph, relying on remembering a Dactylorhiza fuchsii I’d seen in flower earlier this year not far from Mum’s house. I drew a blank. Not only were my credentials as a potentially good hunter gatherer shaken, but also I was in risk of being marked out by neighbours as totally weird, hanging around not far from the roadside gazing intently at the grass, widening out my search then drifting back to the place I thought the orchid had been growing in disbelief that I could not find it.

Sigh. So I’ll leave you with a promise to post about the leaves next time I see them. Not necessarily the leopard-spotted ones, though we can always hope!

32 Replies to “Dactylorhiza fuchsii | Common Spotted Orchid”

  1. Thank you for this introduction to a plant that may be common where you are but is completely unknown to me. πŸ˜‰ I think this must be – or could be – the plant I saw growing in a field that a blogging friend photographed outside of Amsterdam. He said they were behind a fence so he couldn’t see them close-up. The habitat looks right. In any case, thanks for this treat!

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