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Heath Spotted-orchid

Dactylorhiza maculata

‘How in bloom they will resemble Moths, the gloss of mirrors, Christmas Stars, their helmets blushing Red-brown when they marry’ – Medbh McGuckian, ‘The Orchid House’

Flowers in dense spike, white, pink or pale purple, with darker streak and loop markings. Pointed leaves with round purple blotches.

It is often confused with the Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii). Common Spotted-orchid has broader leaves with wider blotches and flowers with a more deeply lobed lip.


It is more common in northern and western Britain. It is very plentiful along peaty roadsides in parts of Scotland.


It grows in damp places in marshes, bogs, and acid grassland. It prefers sunny places on lowlands or hills. Whilst it can be found in slightly damp meadows, it is also found in the undergrowth of dry forests, at the edges of streams and in areas with bushes. It grows on siliceous and calcareous substrate.

Best time to see

When in flower, from June to August

Heath Spotted Orchid

Did you know?

The genus name Dactylorhiza is formed from the Greek words “daktylos” meaning “finger” and “rhiza” meaning “root”, referring to the tubers of this plant, that are split into several tubercles. The specific Latin name maculata meaning spotted refers to the stained leaves.

It is also known as the Moorland Spotted Orchid.

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