John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
Home Back to Dactylorhiza species Links

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

This species was first described as Orchis fuchsii from Kent, England by Druce in 1914 and was named after the eminent German botanist, Professor Fuchs. For over a century it has been known as the Common Spotted Orchid and quite familiar to anyone who has studied the flora of the alkaline grasslands of Europe.

D. fuchsii is a widespread and abundant orchid with a distribution throughout temperate Europe, as far east as Siberia and is a member of the large D. maculata group of the genus DactylorhizaD. fuchsii and D. maculata share a close morphological resemblance but their differing habitat choice is a key differentiator, with the latter species exclusively a plant of acidic or neutral substrates and D. fuchsii an orchid of alkaline soils. There are also morphological features that serve to distinguish them, amongst them, the more slender, pointed leaves and less centralised, more discreet lip markings of D. maculata. These characteristics seem to be less apparent in the central and eastern parts of their range and this greater convergence leads some botanists not to recognize any species separation.

D. fuchsii although exclusively tied to non acidic soils, is nonetheless tolerant of a wide range of conditions from the driest chalk grassland to marshes and from full sun to shade. Its flowers are typically pale with bold markings and it's not uncommon to find completely white examples, though these hypochromatic forms should not be confused with D. okellyi which occurs in northern Britain and Ireland. Although currently ranked as a full species, D. okellyi is morphologically difficult to separate from all white D. fuchsii and molecular analysis may yet result in its demotion. The pictures come from various locations in Europe, dating from late June and July.