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THE LEOPARD MARSH

ORCHID

MARTIN SANFORD

T h e m a i n distinguishing f e a t u r e of the L e o p a r d M a r s h Orchid is the presence of ring s h a p e d ( a n n u l a r ) spots on its leaves. S u m m e r h a y e s (1951) m e n t i o n s d a r k e r and m o r e vividly coloured flowers and provides t w o clear plates s h o w i n g t h e characteristic leaf spots. It has b e e n r e c o r d e d f r o m H o l l a n d , s o u t h e r n E n g l a n d f r o m K e n t to Cornwall and Suffolk. T h e r e has b e e n m u c h discussion on t h e precise t a x o n o m i c status of this o r c h i d . S u m m e r h a y e s suggests it could be a distinct species, 'Orchis pardalina\ a n a m e originally coined by Pugsley. Simpson (1982), Petch & Swann (1968) and o t h e r s h a v e considered it a hybrid b e t w e e n the C o m m o n S p o t t e d and S o u t h e r n M a r s h O r c h i d s , Dactylorhiza x grandis ( D r u c e ) P. F. H u n t . It is t r u e that in m a n y cases b o t h these species are present with t h e L e o p a r d M a r s h , but in s o m e localities ( S u m m e r h a y e s m e n t i o n s sites in Cornwall) w h e r e t h e L e o p a r d M a r s h occurs, the C o m m o n S p o t t e d is extremely r a r e . It d o e s s e e m o d d that t h e most i m p o r t a n t c h a r a c t e r - the ring spots - is missing f r o m b o t h the putative p a r e n t s . L a n g (1980) suggests it should b e r e g a r d e d as a variety of the S o u t h e r n M a r s h O r c h i d , Dactylorhizapraetermissa and calls it var. pardalina. H e also m e n t i o n s a n u m b e r of f e a t u r e s which differ b e t w e e n the recognised hybrid a n d t h e L e o p a r d M a r s h . T h e hybrid is m o r e r o b u s t with n a r r o w e r , p o i n t e d leaves which a r e s p o t t e d but d o not bear rings; it also has s h o r t e r bracts. Fertility is lower in t h e hybrid t h a n in the L e o p a r d Marsh. B a t e m a n & D e n h o l m (1983) also regard t h e L e o p a r d M a r s h Orchid as a variety of t h e S o u t h e r n M a r s h ; at t h e same time d e m o t i n g D. praetermissa t o a subspecies of t h e w i d e s p r e a d E u r o p e a n D. majalis. T h e y suggest a new n a m e f o r the L e o p a r d M a r s h - Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. praetermissa var. junialis ( V e r m e u l e n ) Senghas. T h e y also use t h e p r e d o m i n a n t l y annular leaf m a r k i n g s to distinguish it f r o m t h e S o u t h e r n M a r s h and m e n t i o n t h e b o l d e r m a r k i n g s of t h e labellum (usually b r o a d solid loops) in the L e o p a r d M a r s h . W i t h such a c o n f u s e d t a x o n o m y it is hardly surprising t h e r e have b e e n few r e c o r d s for this orchid. T h e confusion with D. x grandis has m a d e it impossible to tell if any previously published r e c o r d s are correct. N o r e c o r d s of t h e L e o p a r d M a r s h Orchid have b e e n r e p o r t e d d u r i n g t h e first t w o years of t h e Suffolk O r c h i d Survey. I would be very interested t o h e a r f r o m a n y o n e w h o has r e c o r d s of this mysterious orchid f r o m Suffolk and w o u l d be g r a t e f u l for the o p p o r t u n i t y to e x a m i n e any p h o t o g r a p h s . All orchids with ring-spotted leaves are of special interest to m e . References B a t e m a n , R . M . & D e n h o l m , I. (1983). A reappraisal of the British and Irish dactylorchids, 1. T h e tetraploid marsh-orchids. Watsonia, 14, 347. L a n g , D . (1980). Orchids of Britain. O x f o r d University Press. P e t c h , C . P. & S w a n n , E . L . , (1968). Flora of Norfolk. Norwich: J a r r o l d .

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 24


T H E LEOPARD MARSH ORCHID

81

Simpson, F. W . , (1982). Simpson's Flora of Suffolk. Ipswich: Suffolk Naturalists' Society. S u m m e r h a y e s , V . S. (1951). Wild Orchids of Britain. L o n d o n : Collins. Martin S a n f o r d Suffolk Biological R e c o r d s C e n t r e The Museum High Street Ipswich, IP1 3 Q H

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 24

The Leopard Marsh Orchid  

Sanford, M. N.

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