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Dactylorhiza maculata sub-species ericetorum
previously: Orchis ericetorum, Orchis elodes and Orchis maculata
Can be robust, with a slightly ridged stem up to 40cm tall, but most plants are smaller and elegant, 10-15cm tall, with a rather pyramidal-shaped flower spike. It tends to grow in clumps. There are four to eight narrow, pointed base leaves, lightly marked with small spots or circles. It usually has 5-20 pale pinkish-mauve, faintly scented flowers, although plants in favoured southern localities may have more than 50. The lateral sepals are spreading, the dorsal sepal and upper petals forming a loose hood. The lip is broad and skirt-like, with a small triangular central lobe, marked with a series of red lines and small dots which never form the well-defined double loops typical of the Common Spotted-orchid. The spur is slim and straight. White flowers alb are not uncommon, nor are deep, heavily-marked ones, and most large populations contain these forms. Flowers with plain, dark red lips, like var. rhodochila of Common Spotted-orchid, have been recorded in Merioneth.
The shape of the lip and its markings should distinguish it from Common Spotted-orchid. Dwarf plants in the Outer Hebrides can be confused with the equally dwarf hebridensis heb sub-species of Common Spotted-orchid. In the south of England, Heath Spotted-orchid flowers two weeks later than Common, but in the north and north-west this situation tends to be reversed.
Hybrids with Common Spotted-orchid are not infrequent, and are often obvious due to their larger size and vigorous growth. Hybrids have also been recorded with Small-white Orchid and Fragrant Orchids; Early Marsh-orchid, Southern Marsh-orchid, Northern Marsh-orchid, Western Marsh-orchid and Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid; and dubiously with Lesser Butterfly-orchid. Photographs of many of these hybrids are shown here.
Typically a plant of acid soils, growing in welldrained habitats such as grassland, moors and heaths, from sea-level to 900m. Also found in the wetter surroundings of bogs, usually on slightly raised areas which are not saturated.Very rarely found on limestone.
Bumblebees and butterflies have occasionally been recorded as pollinators, but most active are Bristle Flies and the long-legged true fly Ptychoptera contaminata. The level of seed-set is high.
Although one of the commonest orchids in the north and north-west, habitat destruction has led to its decline in places.
Flourishes particularly in the west and north-west of Britain, and similarly in the west and north of Ireland. It is less common in the Midlands and south-east England, where it is becoming scarce.
Late May to early August
This is a link to BritainsOrchids
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