This is the most common of all British orchids and is present in substantial numbers on Bepton Down.
It is extremely variable and will grow to between 20cm and 50cm tall, however in certain conditions it may reach a height of 70 cm. Before the flower spike appears the leaves form a rosette at ground level. They are green with a myriad of dark oval spots and are fairly broad and blunt whereas the leaves that appear higher on the flowering stem are elongated and pointed.
These orchids boast a wide range of colours and will be found in varying shades of pink through to purple whilst some will be white. The floral spike boast varying numbers of tightly packed flowers. Dark distinctive pink spots and stripes will be present on their three lobed lips. It owes its success to its ability to colonize different types of soil. Here the habitat is mainly calcareous grassland. It will also be found in a variety of other habitats such as open deciduous woodlands, verges, fenland, heaths, scrub.
Depending on the season this orchid can be found in flower from May right through until the middle of August although the peak flowering period will normally be in June and July. In the British Isles it is found from sea level to a height of about 550m. Pollinators include hoverflies, buff-tailed bumblebees and the female cuckoo bee. It reproduces freely through seed dispersal but new plants will take several years to actually flower. They will also, once established, multiply vegetatively from the mother plant to form clumps.
One further comment on this orchid: it has a number of named subspecies and varieties.