Guest blogger: Dr Trevor Dines, Plantlife
It's common, it's spotted and it's an orchid. Doing exactly what it says on the tin makes common spotted orchids no less spectacular than other, rarer, orchids. It's the one that you're most likely to be familiar with, but this familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. On the contrary, it's a personal favourite of mine amongst all our 53 species of orchid. Why? Because each plant is unique.
Take those cheerfully spotted leaves for example. I like hunting out plants with so much spotting the leaves are nearly black, or those with feint, ghostly spots or, best of all, those with pale centres giving them a leopard-spot look. Then there are the flowers. From deep, fuchsia pink through to white, they are dotted, striped, lined and looped in so many unimaginable ways. With their lateral sepals held out sideways like wings, they remind me of a tropical bird in flight. The plants I get most excited about finding, the rare jewels amongst the many, are the albinos with pure white flowers and emerald green leaves.
Albino common spotted orchid, copyright Plantlife
As with so many plants this year, common spotted orchids were about three to four weeks late. Their flower stems start to elongate, packed with tight spikes of flowers that start opening in June.
Have a look for them on lime-rich soils along roadside verges and hedges and in meadows and open woodland. See if you can find pure white ones, or those with leopard-spotted leaves.
More about common spotted orchids on the Plantlife website.