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It is widely variable in colour and height, ranging from 15 to 60 cm in height. The dense and rich-flowered inflorescence (flower spike) is at first conical then cylindrical. The flower colour can vary from white to pale purple with purple spots, a symmetrical pattern of dark purple loops or dots and dashes. The lip has three lobes. The bracts are usually shorter than the flower. The lip is smaller than that of the very similar Dactylorhiza maculata and has three deeper cuts. The middle lobe is more than half as large as a lateral lobe. Some colonies are highly perfumed, attractive to day-flying moths.
In Britain it is widespread, occurring from alkaline marshes to chalk downland. The most common orchid in Britain. After the Bee Orchid, it is the most successful orchid coloniser of waste land.
Lat: 51.84, Long: -2.64
Spotted on Jun 23, 2011
Submitted on Nov 22, 2012