Western Isles
 Western Isles of Scotland

Western Isles Wildflowers

Western Isles wildflowers is a collection of information about our Hebridean wildflowers including identification hints, traditional herbal uses and general plant lore.


Northern Marsh-orchid

Dactylorhiza purplella

Gaelic name: Mogairlean Purpaidh

Northern Marsh-orchid 1 Northern Marsh-orchid 2
Northern Marsh-orchid 2 Northern Marsh-orchid 2  

For quick identification purposes in the Western Isles there are two main orchid species with rich colour like this, the Early Marsh-orchid and the Northern Marsh-orchid.

The Early Marsh Orchid only likes non-acid soil (basic) preferably the lime-rich sandy soil of the machair, like Riof or Northton. Northern marsh orchid will grow in soils which are quite acid as well as the lime ones, and is often found in damp grassland and at roadsides.

Neither Early Marsh-orchid or Northern Marsh-orchid have spotted leaves (unless they have crossed with another species)

Early Marsh-orchid

In the Early Marsh-orchids the bottom part of the florets are narrow-looking with the sides pulled back

.Those of the Northern Marsh orchid are not "pulled back" and the bottom part of the floret appears diamond-shaped

Early Marsh -orchid   Northern Marsh-orchid

Northern Marsh Orchid Notes

  Dactylorhiza purpurella

Very deep red-purple to magenta, sometimes described as deep-wine purple (Occasionally very deep pink)

  Dense oblong flower-head. Sturdy plant
  Dunes or marsh and fields by sea, machair and high ground
click photographs for larger version

Bottom part of the flower diamond-shaped and heavily marked with looped or dashed markings

Sometimes shallowly 3-lobed or almost un-lobed

The lip curling back upwards is a Northern marsh-orchid trait



Broad, pointed leaves, erect

No spots or a vague sprinkle of vague O-shaped ones near leaf tips

4 - 6 Leaves spaced along the stem

Modified leaves behind the floral envelopes

Narrow and pointed



Usually longer than the flowers

Spur on the back of the florets


Pointing downward -
much shorter than the ovary
(ovary attaches floret to plant)

Tapered to the tip

Northern Marsh Orchid Spur

10 - 40 florets
Usual height in Western Isles
10 - 35cm

x Early Marsh-orchid
(Quite frequently)
D. x latirella


Heath Spotted x Northern Marsh-orchid
Heath Spotted x Northern Marsh-orchid

D. x formosa



x Hebridean Spotted-orchid
D. x venusta


x Broad-leaved Marsh-orchid
(Very rare)

Northern Marsh-orchid is a native plant of the Western Isles.



Photographs 1 © Debbie Bozkurt
Isle of Benbecula - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
10th June, 2007

Photographs 2 © Suzanne Harris
Isle of Great Bernera - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
25th June, 2007

Debbie's online photo album

A-Z Wildflowers

Flowers By Colours:

yellow wildflowers

white wildflowers

pink wildflowers

blue or purplish

orchid ID notes

Flowering in:








Colour of the season

May 27th Lush Green!

June 11th White

June 25th Pink



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