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Dactylorhiza maculata - (L.)Vermuel.                
Common Name Spotted Orchid
Family Orchidaceae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Moist acid peaty substrata throughout the British Isles[17].
Range W. Europe in Britain and France, north through Germany ad Belgium to Scandanavia.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun


Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of bulb
Dactylorhiza maculata is a BULB growing to 0.6 m (2ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, beetles.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Synonyms Orchis maculata.
Dactylorhiza maculata Spotted Orchid

Dactylorhiza maculata Spotted Orchid
Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Root.
Edible Uses:

Root - cooked[2, 4, 46]. It is a source of 'salep', a fine white to yellowish-white powder that is obtained by drying the tuber and grinding it into a powder[2, 105, 177]. Salep is a starch-like substance with a sweetish taste and a faint somewhat unpleasant smell[4]. It is said to be very nutritious and is made into a drink or can be added to cereals and used in making bread etc[100, 183]. One ounce of salep is said to be enough to sustain a person for a day[100, 115].
Medicinal Uses

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Demulcent;  Nutritive.

Salep (see above for more details) is very nutritive and demulcent[4]. It has been used as a diet of special value for children and convalescents, being boiled with water, flavoured and prepared in the same way as arrowroot[4]. Rich in mucilage, it forms a soothing and demulcent jelly that is used in the treatment of irritations of the gastro-intestinal canal[4]. One part of salep to fifty parts of water is sufficient to make a jelly[4]. The tuber, from which salep is prepared, should be harvested as the plant dies down after flowering and setting seed[4].
Other Uses
None known
Cultivation details                                         
Succeeds in most soils, but it prefers a moist loam and lots of leaf mould[42]. Requires a deep rich soil[1]. Grows well in full sun or partial shade[42], doing well in a woodland garden[230]. Orchids are, in general, shallow-rooting plants of well-drained low-fertility soils. Their symbiotic relationship with a fungus in the soil allows them to obtain sufficient nutrients and be able to compete successfully with other plants. They are very sensitive to the addition of fertilizers or fungicides since these can harm the symbiotic fungus and thus kill the orchid[230]. This symbiotic relationship makes them very difficult to cultivate, though they will sometimes appear uninvited in a garden and will then thrive. Transplanting can damage the relationship and plants might also thrive for a few years and then disappear, suggesting that they might be short-lived perennials[230]. Cultivated plants are very susceptible to the predation of slugs and snails[230]. Plants can succeed in a lawn in various parts of the country. The lawn should not be mown early in the year before or immediately after flowering[200]. Plant out bulbs whilst the plant is dormant, preferably in the autumn[200]. Bulbs can also be transplanted with a large ball of soil around the roots when they are in leaf, they are impatient of root disturbance[1].
Seed - surface sow, preferably as soon as it is ripe, in the greenhouse and do not allow the compost to dry out. The seed of this species is extremely simple, it has a minute embryo surrounded by a single layer of protective cells. It contains very little food reserves and depends upon a symbiotic relationship with a species of soil-dwelling fungus. The fungal hyphae invade the seed and enter the cells of the embryo. The orchid soon begins to digest the fungal tissue and this acts as a food supply for the plant until it is able to obtain nutrients from decaying material in the soil[200]. It is best to use some of the soil that is growing around established plants in order to introduce the fungus, or to sow the seed around a plant of the same species and allow the seedlings to grow on until they are large enough to move. Division of the tubers as the flowers fade[230]. This species produces a new tuber towards the end of its growing season. If this is removed from the plant as its flowers are fading, the shock to the plant can stimulate new tubers to be formed. The tuber should be treated as being dormant, whilst the remaining plant should be encouraged to continue in growth in order to give it time to produce new tubers[230]. Division can also be carried out when the plant has a fully developed rosette of leaves but before it comes into flower[230]. The entire new growth is removed from the old tuber from which it has arisen and is potted up, the cut being made towards the bottom of the stem but leaving one or two roots still attached to the old tuber. This can often be done without digging up the plant. The old tuber should develop one or two new growths, whilst the new rosette should continue in growth and flower normally[230].
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[17]Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles.
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
[42]Grey. C. H. Hardy Bulbs.
Rather dated now, but an immense work on bulbs for temperate zones and how to grow them. Three large volumes.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[100]Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide.
An excellent and well illustrated pocket guide for those with very large pockets. Also gives some details on plant uses.
[105]Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World.
The most comprehensive guide to edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
[115]Johnson. C. P. The Useful Plants of Great Britain.
Written about a hundred years ago, but still a very good guide to the useful plants of Britain.
[177]Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption.
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[230]Cribb. P. & Bailes. C. Hardy Orchids. Orchids for the Garden and Frost-free Greenhouse.
An excellent book looking at the orchids that can be grown outdoors in temperate climates and giving lots of information on how to grow them. Very lttle information on their uses.

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Subject : Dactylorhiza maculata  

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