This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Though an upland Arctic type this Orchid is not found in early deposits. It is distributed throughout North Temperate and Arctic Europe, except in Greece and in N. and W. Asia.
This species occurs in all parts of Great Britain, except in Cardigan, Montgomery, Isle of Man, Roxburgh, as far north as the Shetlands, and in the Highlands is found at 3000 ft. It grows in Ireland and the Channel Isles.
No more common Orchid is to be found than the Spotted Orchid, which is to be found growing in moist places in a variety of situations. It occurs in low-lying marshes, in wet meadows, or hollows in fields, bordering rivers and lakes. It also occurs on hillsides in wet places from which issue little rills or springs.
The Spotted Orchid has the usual Orchid habit, being erect. The tubers are palmate. The stem is slender, leafy above, solid. The leaves are narrow, lance-shaped to inversely egg-shaped, usually spotted with purple or black (hence maculata). The lower leaves are blunt or acute, broader toward the tip; the upper are linear to lance-shaped, and like the bracts. The bracts are awl-like, green, 3-nerved, the lateral veins conspicuous, the upper bracts as long as the ovary, the lower longer.
The flowers are lilac, spotted with rose or purple, or white. The spike is egg-shaped. The lip is flat, as broad as long, 3-lobed, the margins curved backwards, scalloped, the middle lobe narrower, and about as long as the lateral lobes, which are spreading. The spur is straight, awl-like, shorter than the ovary. The 3 sepals are spreading. The petals are converging.
The Spotted Orchid is about 1 ft. high. The flowers may be found in June and July. The plant is a perennial, propagated by division of the tuberous root.
The flowers are stalkless in the axils of the bracts. Two of the petals arch over, and the third forms the spurred labellum. The column consists of the style and filament, which cohere, and the single anther is above, with a small round rostellum at the base and projecting over the entrance to the spur. At the back of this cavity lie the 2 stigmas, which form a sticky disk-like area below the rostellum or third stigma. An insect's proboscis thrust into the cavity towards the spur touches the rostellum, opening it, and the pollinia or pollen-masses are detached in an erect position, united by a netlike caudicle with a sticky disk below, which adheres to the bee's head, after it has been withdrawn from its gummy seat on the rostellum. The pollinia in thirty seconds bend forwards, and an insect in entering a second flower and trying to insert its proboscis into the spur leaves the pollinia attached by their club-shaped extremity on the stigmatic disk. Hence cross-pollination will occur.
The flower is visited by Bombus pratorum, Empis livida, E. pennipes, Volucella bombylans, Eristalis horticola.
The seeds are very small and light, and dispersed by the wind.
The Spotted Orchid is found on a clay soil, being a clay plant, or a peat plant growing in wet peat soil.
The Spotted Orchid is liable to attack by two fungi, Melampsora repentis and Coeoma orchidis.
Photo. B. Hanley - Spotted Orchid (Orchis maculata, L.)
The second Latin name refers to the spotted petals, the spots being honey-guides, or to the spotted leaves.
It is called Adam-and-Eve, Adder's-grass, Baldberry, Crawfoot, Crowfoot, Dead Man's Fingers, Dead Man's Hands, Hen's Combs, Lover's Wanton, Man Orchis, Nightcap, Red-lead.
Essential Specific Characters: 292. Orchis maculata, L. - Tubers palmate, stem tall, solid, leaves lanceolate, spotted, flowers lilac, spotted, sepals 3, spreading, bracts with three or more veins.