Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Southern Marsh Orchid

This time last year we made a visit to the Sussex coast to see a veritable confusion of Dactylorhiza species and hybrids.

This year we decided to simplify matters and so ventured to a site closer to home but still in Sussex where Southern Marsh Orchid (
Dactylorhiza praetermissa, right) grows alone. In a fairly small, boggy area surrounding a feeder stream to a pond there was a good show of several hundred plants.

It is an imposing species that unfortunately all too readily hybridises with other members
of the genus (especially Common and Heath Spotted) usually resulting in enormous variation in flower pattern and even difficulty in finding any "typical" examples of the parent species. The remarkable thing about the plants at this site was that uniformity of flower colour and lip pattern was very similar as the picture below of flowers from three plants covering the width of the population. Made identification rather easy, not often the case.

Incidentally and sadly, not so long ago there was a large population of this species on the southern side of Reigate Heath. Unfortunately now extinct because of the habitat drying out, apparently caused by water abstraction!!

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