It didn’t start out as a quest for orchids. First off, it was just a regular dog walk on Corfe Common in Dorset, enjoying the views:
And the meadow flowers, like this patch of knapweed shining in the sunshine:
But then I spotted some interesting white tufts in the distance, so I dragged poor Sadie along to explore … only to find ourselves up to our paws/ankles in water. Oops, that will teach me to look where I am going. (Only it won’t of course, since I’ve reached this age without learning that lesson!)
Anyhow, those white tufts turned out to be orchids:
I believe them to be Heath Spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata). Edward Pratt, in his book on ‘The Wild Flowers of the Isle of Purbeck’, mentions their love of wet pastures and heaths and cites Corfe West and Middle commons as a prime location to find them.
Once you’ve got your eye in for them, they turn out to be all over the place and strangely homogeneous in their distribution:
There’s the odd bit of clumping, but that is possibly explained by the water depth (they like firmer ground apparently).
Their season is June/July and, as you can see in this photo, bracken is beginning to swamp them in places, although this does seem to be managed. (Areas of bracken were clearly cut or rolled – a practice which reduces vigour and avoids the use of chemicals).
The book on the Purbeck flora describes other interesting orchids in the area, such as Autumn Lady’s tresses and Green-winged, so now I can’t wait for our next trip to Studland to go looking for those!