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Common spotted-orchid and Heath spotted-orchid
(Dactylorhiza fuchsii and Dactylorhiza maculata)

Both common spotted-orchids and heath spotted-orchids occur in the New Forest. They are so similar in appearance that separating the two can sometimes be a challenge, particularly as both are variable in size, flower shape, colour and markings; and hybridisation between the two, and other species, occurs.

Heath spotted-orchid

Where: These plants typically occur on heathland
When: June - July  
How many: Common and widespread
Heath spotted-orchid
Heath spotted-orchid

Heath spotted-orchids are the commonest of the New Forest orchids. Abundant and widespread throughout much of the area, they favour the acid, heathland-type soils so prevalent in the New Forest. Look out for them particularly in June, which is the main flowering month.

In fertile soil, heath spotted-orchids grow to a height of 45 centimetres (18 inches), although New Forest plants are often considerably shorter, and have a sometimes dense, conical spike of pale pink, blooms clustered around the tip.

Heath spotted-orchid colours range from pale purple, through to white with small pink spots. The lower lip is three-lobed - the side lobes tend to be rounded, and sometimes notched, whilst the triangular central lobe is considerably smaller than that of its outer neighbours.

Narrow, pointed leaves, most prominent in a cluster around the base of the plant, are usually lightly marked with small, distinctive dark blotches.

Common spotted-orchid

Where: Typically on grassland
When: June - July  
How many: Quite common / widespread
Common spotted-orchid
Common spotted-orchid

The very similar, closely related common spotted-orchid, flowers at around the same time as the heath spotted-orchid, but occurs only in modest numbers, primarily in areas of relatively acid grassland.

Look out for relatively broad leaves at the base of the plant; more extensive, broader spotting; and on the lower lip, a triangular central lobe that is slightly longer than the outer lobes.

References:
Wild Orchids of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight: Martin N. Jenkinson
The Flora of Hampshire: Anne Brewis, Paul Bowman and Francis Rose
Britain's Orchids: David Lang
The Englishman’s Flora: Geoffrey Grigson

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** New Forest ponies **
New Forest ponies in the road
Ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during the first six months of 2018, 36 animals were killed or injured on Forest roads, compared with 26 in the same period in 2017, a shocking rise of 38%. And in the full year, 63 animals were killed on the roads compared to 56 in 2017.
** Always take care when driving **
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley