wild orchid in Cumbria with buttercups

When I was living In Cumbria I had a pleasant surprise to come upon literally right outside the door. Wild Orchids in June bloom, in the garden.

There have been a few wild orchids the last few years on the roadside verge down the lane, but this year they seemed to have finally made the way into the wild garden at home. Not whole masses of them but a few here and there in amongst the big daisies and tall grass, and by the hedgerow.

wild orchid in Cumbria close up

Species Of Wild Orchids

Pinks, purples and whites amongst the green. There are well over 20,000 known species of wild orchids around the world. To put that into context that is more than double the number of bird species known.

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The ones here in the garden within the Eden Valley, Cumbria, are Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza Fuschii).

The use of the word Common in the name is misleading. Yes it is the most common type of wild orchid found in the UK yet they are still relatively endangered, and even when protected on nature reserves some unthinking people have been known to unfortunately dig them up and steal them.

These wild orchids are completely different from the ones I saw at Sitio Litre in Tenerife.

These Wild Orchids grow up to about 60 cm tall, a spire of petals starting from June.

wild orchid from above

How To Tell If It Is A Common Spotted Orchid

Due to the rich variety of species some orchids look extremely like others. A lot of people coming across the Common Spotted Orchid can believe they have found a rarer Heath Spotted Orchid due to similarities.

macro photo of wild orchid

Differences Between Common Spotted and Heath Spotted Orchid

Both have the pinks, lilacs or even all white making even harder distinctions, or even hybrids. There are a few ways to tell the difference, but I would look at the flower petals.

1. The three lobes of the bottom lip – The Heath Spotted Orchid are normally longer and wider than the middle one.

2. The Common Spotted Orchid has more defined coloured loops (normally two), a landing strip guide for pollinating insects like bees. The Heath Spotted Orchid has more broken up or spotted lines/marks there.

wild orchid in the garden

The Joy Of Plants In The UK

I have said before I am far removed from being a ‘gardener’, but it is true I enjoy wandering amongst the fields and garden looking for the small things that bring colour and life to the world.

A wild garden is a more perfect fit for me. Each year new surprises and new wild flowers springing up, with insects all around. Also a place for practicing macro photography without travelling far at all! I wonder what else will appear this summer.

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  1. Josie Gilbert says:

    Lovely photos. It’s nice to know they are growing somewhere where they will be safe. There are some growing in the grounds of the castle where I work, but they are fenced off from public access.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi Josie, thank you. Yes all very safe here. A nice surprise 🙂

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