Faeroe Islands

Spotted Orchid

Dactylorhiza maculata

Photo of spotted orchid

General Description / Cultural Significance

The spotted orchid, Dactylorhiza maculata, is known on the Faeroe Islands for its pleasant smell. This beautiful herbaceous perennial has erect stems and stained leaves, with attractive pale purple petals. They flower during the summer, found growing in damp meadows and near streams, but also on sunny hills or mountainsides. It is pollinated primarily by bumblebees and day moths who are attracted by its heavenly perfume, but the plant does not provide nectar for its pollinators.

Salep is a nutrient dense starch-like substance derived from the root of the plant, and used to treat irritable stomachs, or else added to bread or cereal. Salep can also be important to the diet of either very old or very young people, because of how valuable as a supplement it is. Recently, chef Leif Sørensen invented Faroese haute cuisine from the minimal food indigenous to the islands, not just fermented lamb, mussels and dried fish, but grasses, medical herbs and seaweed too.

Climate Change/Conservation Status 

Change in sea temperature around the Faeroe Islands has affected fishing stocks, as a result of marine ecosystem change. Now that ice is melting in certain areas, it also means there are new accessible areas susceptible to exploitation for gas, minerals, and oil. These changes mean that searching for adaptive strategies, as well as monitoring ecosystems are more important than ever. 

Climate change in the Faeroe Islands also means plants are on the move. Distribution of plants in the mountains might be seriously affected. Species have been migrating upward, and when snow patches disappear, so do their associated communities. These occurrences lead to the disappearance of certain species that are located on mountains not high enough to allow migration toward higher altitudes. Wild orchids, such as the Spotted Orchid, are important markers of how plants in the larger ecosystem will react as temperatures shift, so eyes will be on this native species.

Alternate Names
Heath spotted orchid
Moorland spotted orchid