Early Marsh Orchid
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previously: Orchis latifolia, Orchis incarnata and Orchis strictifolia
Early Marsh-orchid is widely distributed throughout the British Isles. It is represented by five sub-species which are very different in colour and have distinct habitat preferences - and hence a different pattern of distribution. The 'nominate' sub-species incarnata is described below; the other forms are described and illustrated in the next two species accounts: Early Marsh-orchid - sub-species pulchella and coccinea; and Early Marsh-orchid - sub-species ochroleuca and cruenta.
Varies in height from 10-35cm. It has three to six erect, yellowgreen, sheathing base leaves, strongly keeled and with hooded tips, and several narrow, pointed stem leaves. There are 15-30 flowers in a dense cylindrical spike. The lateral sepals are erect above the tight hood formed by the dorsal sepal and two upper petals. The lip is shallowly three-lobed, with the side lobes folded tightly back, making it appear very narrow. It is marked with a pronounced red double loop enclosing a series of dots and short lines. The spur, like that of all the marsh-orchids, is fat and conical.
incarnata Height up to 30cm. The leaves are unspotted. The flowers are pale flesh pink in colour. The lateral sepals are marked with loops and dots. The lip is shallowly three-lobed, with the sides strongly reflexed, and marked with a double loop in red. CONFUSING SPECIES: The spotted-orchids can be clearly separated from marshorchids by their slim, parallel-sided spurs. White flowered forms of Early Marsh-orchids can be misleading, but if they occur as single individuals in a population of red or purple flowers they are very unlikely to be sub-species ochroleuca (see Early Marsh-orchid - sub-species ochroleuca and cruenta). Interestingly, on the island of Gotland in the Baltic, four sub-species (excluding sub-species coccinea), can be found together in the same site with no apparent intermediate forms.
HYBRIDS: Hybrids are not infrequent between the sub-species and also with Common and Heath Spotted-orchid. Northern.Western and Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchids, and also with Fragrant Orchid.
Sub-species incarnata grows in calcareous fens and marshes, in wet meadows on alkaline soils, and in alkaline upland flushes up to 450m.
The female Red-tailed Bumblebee has been recorded regularly as a pollinator of sub-species incarnata and sub-species pulchella. Seed-set is efficient.
This species has declined markedly in central and south-east England over the last century, mainly due to drainage and agricultural improvement.
Sub-species incarnata is widely distributed throughout Britain, although it is less frequent in Ireland. It has been recorded inland as a recent coloniser of fly-ash tips in north-east England.
No. of flowers: 15-30
Mid-May to July
ramthakur, CatherineD has marked this note useful
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Very pretty Orchids, Anita and Mike.
I like the colour of these flowers.
The picture is well taken.
Hello Anita and Mike,
Nice capture of this pretty Orchid. I like the pattern of the lips. Well done! Cheers,
nice pinkish flowers, TFS Ori