Landscape Architects

How to look after Common spotted orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii

How to look after Common spotted orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii ), Bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) and Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis Pyramidalis); Here’s how to manage your meadow or woodlands so that orchids thrive and spread, safeguarding them for future generations to enjoy! Here’s also how to create a wildflower meadow and how to create more suitable conditions for Bee orchids, Pyramidal orchids and Common spotted orchids now, creating the conditions they require..

When and where are these orchids found?

Now is a great time to view orchids like Common spotted (Dactylorhiza fuchsii ), Bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) and Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis Pyramidalis) look for them in your local grasslands, woods and meadows. They all flower in June and July; so they are out at the moment in south east England. We are lucky to have numerous sites in East Sussex and Kent where orchids thrive and are protected by careful management and plans drawn up by ecology and landscape planning experts at Landvision. These three orchids require management to maintain their populations; they are splendid examples of our native wildflowers and orchids attract visitors and walkers to the county to see them growing in the wild, in woods, grasslands and meadows.

What conditions do these three orchids require?

The Common spotted orchid is an orchid of damp grassland and open woodlands. It is found on woodland edges, along the edges of woodland paths and in glades, where higher light levels and a certain amount of moisture create the conditions that it needs. It has a beautiful pale pink tall flower spike and flowers in June and July. The grassland it is located in will need management and the woodlands need specific management too, to create optimal conditions for these orchids to thrive and spread.

The Bee orchid, which resembles a bee landing on a pink flower is very striking. It can be found on calcareous soils of south facing slopes. This is an orchid of post industrial landscapes, old quarries, gravel and sand pits as well as chalk pits being amongst its favoured habitats. Bee orchids are also located on sand dunes, golf course roughs and on limestone, in old quarries and other disturbed low fertility soils. The bee orchid is associated with an open sward, with no vigorous grasses. It is an example of mimicry as it mimics an insect feeding on a flower. So, this is an orchid the flowers of which mimic its insect pollinators. British bee orchids are self-pollinated.

The Pyramidal orchid has a striking, deep purple triangular shaped spike flower; found on dry open grassland, generally on south facing sunny slopes , on calcareous soils of low fertility. The pyramidal orchid requires an open sward, closely grazed; so grazing of grasses by rabbits and other mammals help this orchid to thrive.

Light disturbance and a certain amount of light trampling is associated with many of our wild grassland orchids. Hence their location on golf roughs (light trampling) and sand dunes, where recreational activities lead to some disturbance, can be a pre requisite of these species for their dispersal and growth and establishment. Orchid seed is very light and is tiny, so the creation of bare patches of low fertility ground by trampling near the present orchids aids the establishment of new seeds. Conversely, if the turf is dominated by vigorous grasses or too long, and there is no disturbance by trampling, the orchids cannot spread their seed so easily.

Light levels and moisture levels need to be right for each species too. The orchids of open, dry, sunny slopes, such as Pyramidal orchid and Bee orchid would not be found in damp or shady woods. Conversely, Common spotted orchids favour moist grassland and could not withstand the dryness of a south facing, thin calcareous soils on rocky slopes, such as on old quarries and golf course roughs which the Bee and Pyramidal orchids require.

The main requirement for all orchid species however, is very low soil fertility. The right amount of moisture and presence of the orchid’s associated fungus in organic matter in the soil is also essential. These factors, together with low fertility and fungal associations of orchid species, are all essential if you are aiming to create species diverse grassland which contains species like orchids in the long term. Help and advice are available from Charmaine and Ian at Landvision.

To determine what soil fertility you have, we will need to take a soil sample and find out what nutrient levels are present in your soil. If the soil fertility is already low, this is good news. However, we will still need to manage appropriately by removing grass cuttings to keep the soil fertility low, so that rank grasses do not smother the finer herbs and species like orchid, which require an open sward; that is, a sward that has bare patches and is not densely covered with vigorous grass and species that would out compete the orchids. If you persist and get the management right; the rewards are great.

If you need help and advice or have any queries for us, you can ring Landvision. We can help advise you now on how to create a wildflower meadow and how to create more suitable conditions for Bee orchids, Pyramidal orchids and Common spotted orchids, amongst other native wildflowers. Tel Charmaine and Ian at Landvision on; 01892 782200 or email us at; or

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