Southern Marsh-orchid - Dactylorhiza praetermissa

Alternative names
Southern Marsh Orchid

The Southern Marsh-orchid typically grows to between 30 and 50 cm in height although taller specimens up to 70 cm can occur. Difficult to distinguish from the Northern Marsh-orchid, Dactylorhiza purpurella, the lip of the Southern Marsh-orchid is gently rounded and folds back on itself. The lip of the Northern Marsh-orchid is more angular.

Similar Species

This is a difficult genus that readily hybridises, leading to many intermediate forms; the species also exhibit a wide range of variation. Other Dactylorhiza in VC55 are Heath-spotted Orchid, Early Marsh Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid and the hybrid between Common Spotted and Southern Marsh Orchids (D x grandis); other hybrids within Dactylorhiza are possible where both parents grow together.

Identification difficulty
ID guidance

Stem usually hollow (feel this by gently compressing the lower stem between finger and thumb; no need to pick the flower!).  Leaves usually unspotted, but sometimes with ringed spots on upperside; labellum (lower lip) usually flat, and rarely has 2 distinct dark loops.  Flowers usually deep pink, but can be paler.

Recording advice

Details of flowers and leaves


This orchid favours damp or marshy ground; it can be frequent on post-industrial land, especially quarries, clay-pits and colliery tips.

When to see it

June to August.

Life History


UK Status

Widespread and can be locally fairly frequent in the southern half of Britain.

VC55 Status

Occasional and local in Leicestershire and Rutland. In the 1979 Flora survey of Leicestershire it was found in 18 of the 617 tetrads.

In the current checklist (Jeeves, 2011) it is listed as occasional, but locally frequent where it occurs


be our species champion

Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map