Orchids are a very diverse and visually appealing group of flowering plant. They typically require certain conditions in order to grow and can be found sporadically in their habitats or in large numbers depending on the species. One of these species of orchid is the southern marsh orchid (dactylorhiza praetermissa) and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish from several similar looking species.
Southern marsh orchid – (picture link)
The southern marsh orchid typically grows to about 8 to 12 inches but has been known to reach heights of 32 inches. Sometimes the orchid will not grow more than 4 inches is the soil is too acidic. This orchid may be spread sporadically in a habitat or may form small groupings. The leaves of the plant are green and spear-shaped. They concentrate at the base but also grow all the way up the stem to the flowering top. The leaves also stick slightly up but can droop because of their length.
The flowering for this orchid is usually a dense concentration of flowers off of spikes at the top of the stem. The shape of the dense flowering can resemble an upside-down pinecone. The flowers can be purple to white and the lip will have purple dots or streaks. The orchid will typically bloom from late May to July.
The habitat for these orchids is typically dense watery wetlands or marshes as well as dune0slacks and near roadways or along paths. Sometimes seeing them up close is difficult because of the wet damp soil that it typically likes. The soil it prefers is damp calcareous (limestone containing) soil. The southern marsh orchid is commonly found all over Europe from southern countries all the way up to southern Norway.
Similarities to other orchids
Two other orchids that are very similar and often difficult to distinguish from the southern marsh orchid are the northern marsh orchid and the early marsh orchid. These three orchids are similar in size, coloring, arrangement, leaves, and the times that they blossom.
Differences between the southern marsh and the early marsh orchids are slightly differences in the leaves and flowering. The leaves of the early marsh are a yellow green and not spear-shaped. The lips of the flower of the early marsh orchid have a pronounced red double loop which the southern marsh orchid does not have.
Differences between the southern marsh and the northern marsh orchids have to do specifically with the flowers. The lip of the northern marsh orchid is angular while the lip of the southern marsh orchid is rounded.