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Dense-flowered Orchid
Neotinea maculata

Although the Dense-flowered Orchid used to occur on the Isle of Man it is now extinct there and confined to Ireland where it is in steep decline due to loss of habitat. It is a tiny slender orchid which is often difficult to spot even from close quarters. Dense-flowered Orchid is found in short sward grassland and pastures, on roadside verges, and in and around the loughs, turloughs and limestone pavement in The Burren in County Clare. It flowers from late April to early June and its flowers are short-lived. It's worldwide range is mysterious. Neotinea maculata is a predominantly Mediterranean plant which makes its occurrence in the wet and windy conditions in Ireland rather strange and the subject of much debate.

Distribution Map Key Features
distribution map

Records for the Dense-flowered Orchid from BSBI are shown on the map with most recent in front. (Hover the mouse over the small map to expand it.)

CLICK HERE to visit the BSBI website page for updated data and maps with separated data for individual record periods

Plant: usually 6-15cm but ranges from 4 - 30cm.
Leaves: 3-6 dark green leaves growing from the base of the stem, broadly elliptical. The remaining leaves are narrower and sheath the stem.
Bracts: pointed and green becoming white towards the tips.
Flowers: very small and white resembling a small figure wearing a rather large helmet. The sepals are white and washed green with green veins. The flower lip is white and angled outwards and forwards. The lip is three lobed with the side lobes resembling the arms of the small figure. The flowers are said to smell faintly of vanilla.

Image Gallery for Dense-flowered Orchid Neotinea maculata

Pollination Taxonomy & Hybrids

For a plant that contains a lot of nectar which could attract small insects, it seems that most plants are self-pollinated, sometimes within the bud before the flower opens.

Formerly in the Orchis genus Neotinea maculata has been moved into the Neotinea genus as a result of scientific study which revealed that it is more closely related to other members of the genus. The Dense-flowered Orchid has no subspecies but there are three varieties: Neotinea maculata var. alba has unspotted leaves and cream-coloured flowers, and is most commonly found in Ireland. Neotinea maculata var. maculata has spotted leaves, and the flower lip is pale pink with a darker pink stripe along its centre. Occasionally other parts of the plant are also spotted, including the stem, sepals and petals; this variety is common in the Mediterranean. Neotinea maculata var. luteola has pale yellow flowers and is probably extinct in Ireland.

Articles about Dense-flowered Orchid in JHOS