John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Dactylorhiza purpurella x fuchsii

D. purpurella  was first described by Stephenson and Stephenson from North Wales in 1920 and its name refers to the characteristic purplish colour of the inflorescence. Its common name is the Northern Marsh Orchid.

Its range is restricted to the Atlantic shores of Northern Europe from Britain through to Denmark and Scandinavia. Recent research has now determined that in the UK the species has a more southerley   distribution than had originally been thought and it has recently been found that D. purpurella, already   widely known from North Wales, is also well established (albeit in limited numbers) on some dune systems in South Wales and in just a few outposts in southern England.

Hybridization between D. purpurella and D. fuchsii has been known for many years and the resultant plants have been formally named Dactylorhiza x venusta.  Unlike crosses with D. coccinea, the range of occurrence is not limited to dune systems and the plant seems in fact to flourish in several types of inland man made habitat. A good example of this are abandoned quarries and particularly where there has formed a level of marshy water that suits the establishment of D. purpurella. Interestingly, D x venusta has been recorded as persisting where D. purpurella has disappeared due to drying conditions. This triploid hybrid is vigorous and can back cross with its parents and thus create extremely confusing swarms.

It is a highly variable orchid and doesn't tend to favour either parent species in its stature, colouration or markings. The pictures accompanying this text come from Argyll in the Western Highlands and Yorkshire in Northern England.  They date from the first two weeks of July.