Week Six: Common Spotted or Heath Spotted Orchid?
Unfortunately I only managed one species to ID this week, I know I know, I’ve failed my own challenge. Although it may only be the one species to identify, it turned out to be a tricky one - so I guess that’s some kind of saving grace I suppose.
After a busy week of back and forth, we found ourselves taking the van to the New Forest again for a couple of nights away. For us the forest is only a 20 minute drive away, but it feels like a complete escape and it’s full of wildlife. So this week’s ID is another forest specimen, found hidden away amongst the ferns on the open heath land.
I would certainly appreciate anyone else’s opinion on this as although I’ve narrowed it down, I may well be wrong.
Heath Spotted Orchid or Common Spotted Orchid?
On a short evening wander, not too far from the van, I noticed splashes of pink dotted throughout the sea of green ferns in front of me. Stopping to take a closer look, the intricate details of the orchid became apparent. The soft pink petals were marked with a deeper pink pattern, and in the evening sun this pretty little orchid held its own on the heath land.
I had my phone with me so I took a snap and ran it through the Picture This App and it came back with heath spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata) as the top choice. Satisfied, I snapped some pics for myself and then carried on with my evening stroll.
Getting back to the van I began to look into heath spotted orchids, through websites and facebook forums and it became apparent that this orchid is very similar to and easily confused with the common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii). It needed more looking into. I ran it through a different app, Sunbird Wild Flower App (i can’t find a link for this one) and it offered up a first choice of Common Orchid.
I was confused. So I turned to my trusty Facebook groups in search of confirmation, however I got very little response with the only answers being offered up as “i always get confused between those two”.
Time to take matters into my own hands.
Comparing pictures of the two orchids on the internet, I could see that the patterns on the petals of my orchid were most similar to that of the heath spotted. The dark pink/purple markings were a lot darker and more rounded. But the real giveaway was the petal shape. The petals on my orchid were much rounder, and not so deeply indented, which confirmed my suspicions that I was looking at a heath spotted orchid. The common spotted orchid has much deeper, almost triangular, indentations on the petals.
So, with heath spotted in mind I ran it through a new app that a friend has sent me (thanks, Peter at Wildonline.blog). It’s another photo ID app called Seek, but it also has lots of challenges and helpful hints about the wildlife in the area you’re in. This app returned the result of heath spotted orchid, and I felt very pleased that perhaps I’ve finally reached a conclusion.
This stunning little orchid is in flower from June to August, and can be found in damp habitats, such as marshes or bogs. It’s more common up north, but the New Forest has plenty of places that suit it’s needs. They can vary in colour from pale pink and purple, to white, but they all have markings on the petals. Remember, if you find one, to check the petal shape - if it has deeper indentations then its probably a common spotted orchid, but if the lobes are rounder then you could be looking at a heath spotted orchid.