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. Nature’s such a tease — not to mention being very much a ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ sort of experience. The flowers are beautiful; one of these days, the leaves will appear for you.

  2. Thanks for the mention, Susan. I have never seen flowers like the ones that you feature. I love the patterns on the petals–they look like they were individually painted by hand. I laughed when I read about your concern about being viewed as weird. I’m convinced that onlookers would look at me that way too, because many of the subjects that I like to photograph with my macro lens are invisible to others at a distance. So it looks to others, I suspect, that I am randomly running back and forth and bending and twisting like a madman. 🙂

    1. My pleasure. I often think people must imagine I have lost something valuable and am surprised nobody offers to help. It made me laugh to imagine you running urgently about from plant to plant after an insect.

    1. That’s the question. I doubt I would feel happier to find a pile of jewels than to find these. I might just be happier for longer after finding the jewels. 🙂

    1. I’m glad they made you smile. If you were to see them together they would be quite different, but the colours are the same and they are both speckled and blotched.

  3. I saw some of these at Heysham nature reserve a while ago, thought they looked very pretty but hadn’t a clue what they were – now I know 🙂

  4. I like the idea that they are hovering in formation. They do appear to be quite deliberate, which could explain how they disappeared from you. I bet they were somewhere lurking and having fun at your expense. It is hard to imagine these as wild flowers, but not at all hard to imagine them lurking and laughing. (Talk about weird.)

    1. You’re right – these are definitely elfin. There were plenty of trees nearby for them to hide in, given the means and the inclination.

  5. It’s been a great year for common spotted orchids round here. They’ve even been quite common! But I’d love to be back in the Ariège, in the Pyrenees, in early summer. We routinely saw several dozen varieties, with the help of local experts.

    1. That must have been wonderful. I’m glad they have truly been common for you. Did you actually see a pink carpet or is that hoping for too much?

  6. So many of these beauties! In Sweden we would not call them common for sure…but of course, a name is a name. Looking forward to seeing the leaves!

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