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Have you seen one of these?

common spotted orchid

Here's something you'll see in the next few weeks if you know where to look.

This spectacular plant is the common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and although it looks quite exotic, it's one of Europe's most common orchids.

The one in the picture was seen amongst a group of its colleagues not far from Artists Lane.

It grows to around 10 to 60 centimetres (5 to 25in) in height. It has a dense-flowered spike, blooming in June-August, that is at first conical then cylindrical. The flower colour can vary from white to pale purple with purple spots, a symmetrical pattern of dark purple loops or dots and dashes. The term 'spotted' comes from the markings on the leaves.

It's typically found in conifer, beech and chestnut forests. It also likes relatively wet meadows, bogs and margins of streams. In Cheshire, you'll often see the orchid along canal banks. It prefers limey soils but it's not particularly sensitive to pH, making it quite widespread.

The plant has been hybridised, so, if you're keen, you can grow this lovely perennial in your own garden.

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