Two of the orchids found in the New Forest grow on heathland and more open places.
They are common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and heath spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata). Both are quite common and look somewhat similar, with varying amounts of brown spots on their leaves. As with other grassland species, grazing is necessary to keep long grass and scrub at bay and to prevent the orchids from being shaded out.
The common spotted orchid is the taller of the two species.
Heath spotted orchid (above) is the most common in the New Forest and is quite widespread. In the rest of Hampshire it occurs in the north-east heathlands. In the UK it is common and widespread in the south-west, Wales, Scotland and northern England, but it is scarce and decreasing elsewhere.
Heath spotted orchids prefer damper areas, flushes and the edges of bogs. It is quite easy to find in many grassy areas in June and July. Try looking around Beaulieu Road Station and the grassy area of Wilverley Plain, near Brockenhurst. The white to pink-purple flowering spikes can often be seen sticking up above the short vegetation between June and August.
The southern marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) and early marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata sub-species pulchella) grow in areas of the forest where heathland turns into wetland.
The New Forest has the second largest concentration of the bog orchid (Hammarbya paludosa) in Western Europe, following the West Highlands of Scotland. This plant needs acidic water conditions to thrive and elsewhere in southern England the populations have been severely affected by drainage work. It is yellow-green in colour and at just 3-12cm high is very small and difficult to see.