Information on Common Spotted-Orchid

Common Name: Common Spotted-Orchid
Scientific Name: Dactylorhiza fuchsii subsp. fuchsii
Irish Name: Nuacht bhallach
Family Group: Orchidaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Common Spotted-Orchid could sometimes be confused with:

Spotted-orchid, Heath,

One of the Spotted-orchids which are extremely variable, this perennial is found in marshes, fens, calcareous or neutral soils, roadsides and meadows.  It stands about 50-60cm high, bearing its amazingly designed flowers in an open spike.  Each flower has a distinctive trident-shaped lip with the central lobe being longer than those on either side.  Sepals and petals create a hood over this, the pollinating insects' landing-pad.  The large lip has a variety of spots, squiggles, flecks, streaks and dots.  In bloom from May to August, these flowers can vary in colour from hues of palest pink to shades of purple.  The flowers have slender spurs which taper and point downward.  The lower leaves are narrow, lanceolate and usually spotted with smaller leaves clinging further up the stem.  This is a native plant and it belongs to the Orchidaceae family.   

I first spotted this Spotted-orchid in 1978 at 5-mile point in Co Wicklow.  However I wasn't absolutely sure of its identification.  However the photographs were all taken in the Burren in 2009 and Brendan Sayers confirmed my identification.  For more on these and other orchids, have a look at a most beautifully produced book by Brendan Sayers and Susan Sex entitled 'Ireland's Wild Orchids'.  Details can be found at www.orchidireland.ie

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Spotted-orchid, Common
Spotted-orchid, Common

One of the most variable of our seven Spotted-orchids and much inclined to hybridisation with other Dactylorhiza species.  If ever there was a wildflower crying out to be seen through a hand-lens, this must be it. 

To learn more about our Irish orchids, I would heartily recommend a really superb book on the subject which is published by the Collins Press and entitled 'Ireland's Wild Orchids - a field guide'. 

Each of our native orchids is beautifully illustrated by the gifted botanical artist, Susan Sex and is an exquisite representation of an amazing plant; Susan's illustrations are complemented by carefully-chosen words from our National Botanic Gardens orchid specialist, Brendan Sayers. Susan's illustrations of key features of our native orchids are extremely useful when trying to identify a species and Brendan's descriptions help to broaden one's understanding of this complex and intriguing subject, and lead one nearer to making a possible identification. He also contributes information on the conservation of these magnificent little plants and gives details of where they might be found. Please seek out this masterpiece from your usual bookseller or find it on http://www.collinspress.ie/irelands-wild-orchids.html