Variations on a theme…. Stunning Heath spotted-orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata) from a recent visit to Aberbargoed Grasslands NNR.
From the often-boggy, mostly acid grasslands at Aberbargoed direct to your screens, this week’s native British orchid is the appropriately named Heath spotted-orchid (remember, the spotted part of that name refers to the marks on its leaves, not its petals). Its scientific name is Dactylorhiza maculata, which the Plantlife website explains as follows: ‘The genus name Dactylorhiza is formed from the Greek words daktylos meaning finger and rhiza meaning root’ – so, this orchid has a multi-fingered root, rather than a single tuber. And maculata means spotted – those leaves.
As you can see from the flower spikes below, this is another orchid with some variation in both its colours, which range from white through pink to pale purple, and its markings, which, though they look spotted from a distance, actually have various combinations of streaks and little loops. The shape of the petals is also distinctive, the lower one in particular is less deeply lobed than, for example, the Common spotted-orchid, which the Heath spotted does superficially resemble.
Of the estimated 25,000 different species of orchid that can be found around the world, 56 are native to Britain and, as some of those 56 are now coming in to bloom, I thought I’d share a couple for this week’s Floral Friday.
Twayblade (Neottia ovata)
First up is the Twayblade I saw growing quite prolifically in the woodland at Merthyr Mawr a couple of weeks ago. It’s one of Britain’s most common species but is often overlooked, perhaps because its yellow-green flowers often blend in with their woodland, scrub or grassland habitats. Twayblade means two leaves, as there usually are just two leaves, from the centre of which sprouts the flower stalk, though, like all living things, there are exceptions to the rule and plants with three to five leaves are sometimes found. The thing that most fascinates me about these orchids is the manikin-shaped flower.
Heath spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata)
Luckily I was with a group of botanists when I saw my first Heath spotted-orchids last weekend, as they can easily be confused with Common spotted-orchids, though the fact that we were in a damp boggy field at the time was probably also a good species indicator. As the name ‘heath’ implies, this orchid likes to get its feet wet, relishing the sogginess of peaty moors and boggy heaths. As well as being common throughout Europe, this orchid can also be found throughout the British Isles, though it does show a marked preference for northern and western areas. Its gorgeous flowers can be seen from around the middle of May through to mid July.