Information on Northern marsh-orchid

Common Name: Northern marsh-orchid
Scientific Name: Dactylorhiza purpurella
Irish Name: Magairlín corcra
Family Group: Orchidaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Northern marsh-orchid is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.


The colour of this beautiful Orchid is best described as a rich, deep purple.  Growing to about 40cm high, it bears its flowers in flat-topped columns through June and July.  As the name suggests, this wildflower is found on wet ground such as machair (low-lying sand-dune pasture), damp meadows and habitat which is not too acidic.  Each flower is comprised of a flat lower-lip which is marked with dark lines and blotches.  This diamond-shaped lip turns up as the plant matures and sometimes has a small lobe in the centre.  Two more petals stand up like rabbit's ears while three more form the little hood over the pollinia (the area in which the reproductive parts of the orchid are located).  The lanceolate leaves can vary but those which I found were spotted.  This is a native plant, not frequently found, which belongs to the family Orchidaceae.  

I found this Orchid growing at Ballyteigue Burrow, Co Wexford in 2009 and the photographs were taken on that occasion. 

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Marsh-orchid, Northern
Marsh-orchid, Northern

To learn more about our Irish orchids, I would heartily recommend a really superb book on the subject which is published by the Collins Press and entitled 'Ireland's Wild Orchids - a field guide'. 

Each of our native orchids is beautifully illustrated by the gifted botanical artist, Susan Sex and is an exquisite representation of an amazing plant; Susan's illustrations are complemented by carefully-chosen words from our National Botanic Gardens orchid specialist, Brendan Sayers. Susan's illustrations of key features of our native orchids are extremely useful when trying to identify a species and Brendan's descriptions help to broaden one's understanding of this complex and intriguing subject, and lead one nearer to making a possible identification. He also contributes information on the conservation of these magnificent little plants and gives details of where they might be found. Please seek out this masterpiece from your usual bookseller or find it on http://www.collinspress.ie/irelands-wild-orchids.html