Wednesday, 24 March 2010

PLANT: A scarce marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides) new to Cumbria

June 14, 2009:
A most experienced botanist and friend, Jeremy Roberts, contacted me to say that he had found some interesting marsh orchids which he thought to be a first record for that particular species in Cumbria, and suggested that we should go and take a look at them together. There were eight plants in flower close to a stream on small grazed ledges on a fairly steep slope in upland limestone pasture. The plants were grouped 4, 3 and 1 and the groups were within 2 to 3 metres of each other and all were at peak-flowering. Close associates included Schoenus nigricans, Carex ornithopoda, C. capillaris, Primula farinosa, etc. Whilst at the date of the visit the ground was dry, run-off from the slopes above, no doubt provided fairly continuous flushing of the habitat.

All eight plants were small, rather delicate and usually possessed two narrow, recurved (often folded) sheathing leaves with a small cauline leaf above; most leaves were unspotted, some just slightly so. In all cases the inflorescences were few-flowered, lax, and one-sided, the individual flowers were reddish-purple, relatively large and with broad labella. These latter were trilobed to differing degrees, usually with the central lobe the longest and were rather obscurely marked with dashes and dots, etc. The bracts were strongly anthocyanin-stained as was the upper stem below the inflorescence. All the above characters relate to Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides and their identification as such was confirmed.

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