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Dactylorhiza praetermissa x fuchsii
D. praetermissa was first described from Southern England in 1914 and its name literally means "neglected".
It is basically a plant of the Atlantic, North Sea and English Channel coasts of Northern Europe and is at
its most frequent in the sand dune systems of England and Wales. Its full range includes France, Holland,
Belgium, Denmark and reaches its easterly limit in Germany. In Britain the species was originally thought
to be restricted to the southernmost counties but it's now known to occur with relative frequency in North Wales and in England as far north as Lancashire and possibly Cumberland.
Although the preferred habitat of D. praetermissa is wet dune slacks, it can accomodate a wide range of
calcareous to neutral situations including on occasion, dry chalk grassland. This species is highly variable
and as with all the members of its genus, an enthusiastic gene sharer, consequently many populations have
suffered high levels of gene introgression which can make certain identification problematic.
One of the most frequently encountered hybrids is with D. fuchsii and this is formally recognized and named Dactylorhiza x grandis. Being a triploid and therefore partially fertile, it can back cross with its parents and establish large and confusing swarms that may persist for decades. The plants are variable in appearance and do not favour any particular parent. In large colonies however, where years of annual back crossing may have occurred the plants do appear to become more robust and take on an homogenous identity.
These photographs are from just such a site at Ferring in Sussex and illustrate this observation very well.