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Dactylorhiza okellyi

D. okellyi was first described from Co Clare (Ireland) in 1909 and was named in honour of the noted Irish   botanist P. O'Kelly. It is a member of the D. maculata group of Dachtylorhiza and an orchid about which there has been considerable taxonomic disagreement amongst botanists.

Distinguishing this species from albiflora forms of D. fucshii is difficult and although there have been several thorough studies, a definitive, widely accepted description is still awaited. The distribution of D. okellyii is little clearer than its status but the species is known with certainty from the west coasts of both Ireland and Scotland, most famously on the Burren, an area of limestone pavement in the south west of Ireland.

It is evident that D. okellyii is a taxon lacking the purple pigment anthocyanin but equally that this is not a definitive factor as some examples can exhibit both a degree of feint labellum marking and light spotting to the leaves. Given that the species is seldom found in isolation from more conventionally marked D. fucshii, it is reasonable to assume that the process of clinal variation is in progress. Pat O'Reilly and Sue Parker (Wild Orchids in the Burren, 2007) make the valid observation that albiflora plants found in groups are more likely to be D. okellyii than those found singly. It should be mentioned therefore that the orchids depicted here, although not isolated, were plants from a thinly populated and widely scattered colony on the west coast of Scotland. Another recognized characteristic of D. okellyii is the labellum and the way in which it's lobes are deeply divided and in overall dimensions, significantly narrower as compared to D. fucshii. This produces a distinctive plant, with an apparently loose inflorescence atop a slender, often tall stem.