Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

Plant of the Month, July  2017
  Dactylorhiza maculata - by Liam McCaughey

While we gardeners spend much time and effort to grow exotic species, sometimes it is good to find nature, in the form of our own native flora, making a comeback. We were delighted last year to spot, just in time, a self-seeded orchid coming up in the middle of the lawn. This was the heath spotted orchid, Dactylorhiza maculata.

- At least that is what we think it is. The Common spotted orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii is very similar, and indeed hybridises widely. One of the distinguishing features is in the shape of the lobes - D. maculata has wide lateral lobes (see the picture on the left), while D fuchsii has a longer central lobe .

.After carefully mowing round it until it had finished flowering, it was equally carefully relocated into the long grass part of the garden, where it has just  flowered again this year.

D. maculata has a wide range in nature, across Europe as far as western Siberia, and south to Algeria and Morocco. It has a preference for damp locations, which certainly fits with our garden.

The name dactylorhiza is derived from two Greek words, δάκτυλος "daktylos" meaning "finger" and ρίζα "rhiza" meaning "root" - its long finger-like tubers differ from the round tubers of orchis, and of course its specific name maculata refers to its spotted leaves.

Hopefully this and more native orchids will invade the wilder parts of the garden to create a "wildflower meadow" image.

ref. Wild Orchids of Britain and Europe, Davies and Huxley