This is the most common of the Scottish orchids. It grows on moorland, in acid soils, and also in marshes and open woodland throughout Scotland. Also known as the Moorland Spotted Orchid, its Latin appendage, maculata, means stained. This refers to the leaves, which are covered in purple spots or stains.
One straight but delicate stem appears in late spring, out of which leaves grow alternate and stalk-less. The leaves are lanceolate, with roundly pointed tips. As mentioned they are usually covered in small dark purple spots.
The flower heads are conical in shape, with anywhere between 5 and 20 flowers to a head. In southern regions there may be up to 50 flowers per head, but in Scotland this is very rare. Each flower has 2 petals, a winged upper petal, which is cleft in three, with two side ‘wings’, and a larger lower petal which can also be split into three, and has a frilly appearance. Petals are white to pale lilac or pink and with spots or broken lines of deeper purple on the lower petals.
The calyx is spurred with 1 stamen and 2 stigmas emerging from it. The fruit is a capsule containing tiny, almost powdery seeds which disperse on the wind.