Many many years ago I found much to my surprise and excitement a native terrestrial orchid growing in the garden. The Northern Marsh Orchid is part of the Dactylorhiza group Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. purpurella. The Northern Marsh Orchid grows wild in the North of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales while it is rare elsewhere in the UK. It's another one of my hardy UK garden worthy natives. Furthermore it loves damp conditions though not wet feet. So no wonder it likes my garden!
It's derived from the greek words dactylos meaning finger and riza meaning root referring to it's annual finger-like rhizome roots.
This family of orchids hybridize very easily with others in the Dactylorhiza group and are quite variable in their appearance. Mine bloom every June. They produce a dense cylindrical inflorescence with a square top. The inflorescence has about 16 light purple coloured flowers aprox 1.8 cm long with a lower lip which curls back ever so slightly. The plants have oblong and unspotted leaves and grow to around 20 cm tall.
Establishing Northern Marsh orchids in the garden
Firstly it is illegally to dig these orchids up from the wild. Northern Marsh orchids are quite hard to establish in any garden from seed as there needs to be the right type of mycorrhizal/symbiotic fungi present in the soil when the seeds germinate. Poor and unfertilized soil is best. It should have some symbiotic fungi present too.
They grow in a south easterly scree bed in my garden. This has proved to be the perfect place for a population of native terrestrial orchids to establish. Though how the first one established there intrigues me. I've never discovered any of these growing in our locality YET!...unless there was a seedling in the pot of thyme.
Sowing Northern Marsh Orchid Seeds
You need Patience