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Early Marsh Orchid 05


Early marsh orchid   Dactylorhiza incarnata


There are several colour varieties of early marsh orchid, sometimes occurring together.  These and the Marsh orchids are notoriously complex due to interbreeding and mutation.   The differences between the Early Marsh are small in genetic terms, yet they are usually separated into subspecies.  However, subspecies require an explanation why they have become different, usually by geographical separation.  If they occur together and pollen is transferred between them, they can still interbreed, thereby reducing the occurrence of a subspecies (according to the dominance of the allele / gene).  This cannot be done for the UK (no barriers), and hence I would rather prefer this to be either several full species or several varieties (based upon colour) of a single species.   Pollination and spread in the UK is often inadvertently done by orchid spotters who carry the pollen on their clothes and under finger nails.





 Early Marsh Orchid coccinea 12


var. COCCINEA (red)





Early Marsh Orchid 02 crop


var. OCHROLEUCA (creamy white)?


This is either a new species, rare subspecies or a variety of Early Marsh Orchid.  See top photo to compare them.  This white flower has broader bracts, is slightly stouter and has slightly lobed petals.   It potentially bridges the gap between var. ochroleuca and var. coccinea (there is a small amount of pink tingeing in the lower photo).  It therefore can be argued to be a white variety of either a SPECIES called D. coccinea (based mainly on colour) or D. ochroleuca (based mainly on morphology), or a hybrid of both    This particular population occurred at this location in South Wales in good numbers in 2006, but did not reappear again in 2008.




Early Marsh Orchid pulcella 02


var. PULCELLA (purple)


Kenfig NNR, Wales, June 2008.




Early Marsh Orchid cruenta


Flecked marsh orchid    Dactylorhiza cruenta


a.k.a.  var. CRUENTA (pink)


Lough Bunny, The Burren, Ireland, June 2nd 2008.


Possibly a separate species, but almost surely a subspecies of early marsh. This does have geographical separation as well as a distinct and predictable difference with the other "subspecies".  Note the faint speckles on the leaves and bracts.




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