Heath Spotted Orchid
- Name also: Moorland Spotted-orchid
- Subspecies: ssp. maculata, ssp. fuchsii
- Family: Orchid Family – Orchidaceae
- Growing form: Perennial herb.
- Height: 20–50 cm (8–20 in.). Stem delicate, full.
- Flower: Perianth irregular (zygomorphic), violet, purple, pink or white, dark-patterned, approx. 1.5 cm (0.6 in.) wide. Tepals 6, in 2 whorls, of which 1 elaborated into labellum. Labellum under perianth, spurred, tip shallowly–deeply 3-lobed, lateral lobes usually larger than central lobe, sometimes all lobes around same size. Spur shorter than ovary. Androecium and gynoecium fused into a column, stamens 1, stigmas 2. Inflorescence a quite dense, spiked raceme. Subtending bracts light-coloured, delicately serrated, usually shorter than flowers.
- Leaves: Alternate, stalkless, leaves 3–10, lowest leaves clearly larger than upper ones. Blade narrowly lanceolate, blunt–round-tipped, with entire margin, parallel-veined, upper surface dark-dotted, underside blue-grey. Upper leaves small, lanceolate, like subtending bracts.
- Fruit: Capsule, seeds tiny, like dust.
- Habitat: Bog margins, swamps, fens, boggy hollows in forest heaths, moist forests, broad-leaved forests, springs, stream banks, beaches, pastures, grazing land, mountain birch woodland and lower tundra areas. Ssp. fuchsii is calciphile.
- Flowering time: June–August.
Genus Dactylorhiza is taxonomically a very difficult genus, in addition to which its most common member heath spotted orchid has an appearance that varies greatly: in the same stand the flower’s colour, pattern and form changes along with its size and its markings. Also, the species has managed to develop a group that has a different habitat and spread, and might even have a different pollination biology. The easiest form to identify is probably common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fucsii or D. maculata ssp. fuchsii) – although sometimes its classification requires a study of the chromosomes. There are some quite clear differences in the appearance of the subspecies but heath spotted orchid’s internal variations make classification more difficult. The leaves on common spotted orchid are round-tipped, it has a densely conical inflorescence, the flower’s labellum is clearly 3-lobed, and the central lobe is just about as large as the lateral lobes. Perhaps the clearest difference is however in the ecology: heath spotted orchid thrive in acid soil too, but common spotted orchid is a demanding and in Finland rare plant which needs calciferous soil. Knowledge of common spotted orchid’s spread is to some extent unclear so it is worthwhile looking closely for spotted orchids on calciferous ground.