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Early Marsh Orchid

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A declining species of damp grassland



Early Marsh Orchid: tell me the old, old story

Post date: Monday, 26 May, 2014 - 00:00

The early marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata) can be found throughout Europe but, sadly, in Britain it is the same old story, it is nowhere near as common as it once was due to the extensive draining of wet meadows to 'improve' them for agriculture. Just how many species of plant and animal have gone this way since 1940? 

The early marsh orchid was once a common orchid of damp, but firm, grassland areas but is has now gone from much of the British Isles apart from some protected areas. It also freely hybridises with other marsh orchids which has not helped its cause either. To make matters more complicated still there are four subspecies just to confuse the issue. Even true early marsh orchids can vary in size and flower colouring and DNA testing is now used to establish where true specimens exist.

It flowers in June and in Dorset by far the best place to find this plant would seem to be on the heaths where the ground is damp but not generally sodden and where there is grass rather than dense heather. Hartland Moor and nearby Stoborough Heath are examples of suitable habitat where they occur.



The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Early Marsh Orchid
Scientific Name Dactylorhiza incarnata
Family Orchid family - Orchidaceae
Status Rare
Interest Level
Species Family Orchid Family - Orchidaceae
Flower Colour Group Pink
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
Preferred Environment
Look for Medium size orchid with a narrow spike of pale pink flowers
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

This species is often found in these habitats:

Habitat(s) Relationship
GN: Neutral Grassland Associated