Information on Flecked Marsh-orchid

Common Name: Flecked Marsh-orchid
Scientific Name: Dactylorhiza incarnata ssp. cruenta
Irish Name: Magairlín craorag
Family Group: Orchidaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Flecked Marsh-orchid is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.


This is truly an amazing wildflower and one to be viewed through the strongest lens possible – it is such a truly beautiful, superbly designed, brilliantly coloured plant. Even without a hand-lens, what is immediately obvious is the wonderful scattering of browny-purple spots all over the leaves and the bracts, very often both sides of the leaves being spotted in quite separate patterns (and not just spots showing through from the upperside of the leaves to the lower). The plant is quite erect, growing to over 30 cm at times, with a narrow upright bearing. The mauve flowers are borne in an erect spike, each having strong patterns of deeper mauve and purple squiggles on all of the petals. This handsome marsh-orchid flowers from May to July, only in a few parts of the west of Ireland and usually in marshes and by limestone lakes.  It is a native plant which belongs to the Orchidaceae family. 

I was so very fortunate to be shown this plant, growing in the Burren, by Dr Matthew Jebb, then Taxonomist, now Director of the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin on a wildflower walk organised by Burren Beo. This was in 2010 when I also photographed it. 

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

Marsh-orchid, Flecked
Marsh-orchid, Flecked

Unsurprisingly, this plant is also known as Leopard Orchid. 

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