John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Dactylorhiza pulchella

D. pulchella  was first described by Druce from Thuringe, Germany in 1884 and was at that time referred to as Orchis incarnata var pulchella. Its name literally means "beautiful".

This is one of the less variable species of Dactylorhiza,although frequent introgression by other genus members can create populations of intermediates which all to often lead to misidentification. These complications and uncertainties are at the heart of problems in establishing an accurate idea of the species distribution. Some authorities express the view that its range extends from the west coast of Ireland, across Europe and into Russia, whilst others regard the species as a British endemic.

D. pulchella is a somewhat spindly species with normally unspotted leaves and a comparatively lax , few flowered inflorescence. The overall form of the plant is relatively constant but variations in colour are not unknown and both white (as illustrated here) and pale yellow forms have been noted. The most usual colour is however dark pink or purple and this serves to separate it from D. incarnata which shows a similar habitat preference and with which it is often found growing.  D. cruenta is another species with which it can be confused but the heavy leaf spotting of the former serves to separate it. It should perhaps be noted however that a population in Ireland formally regarded as D. cruenta was subsequently found to be a variety of D. pulchella with leaf markings !

This is strictly a wetland species of acidic or neutral soils, usually in full sun and is a later flowerer than its close relative D. incarnata which starts some two weeks earlier. The pictures come from the New Forest and Dorset heathlands of southern England, dating from early June.