Common name: Hardy Madeira orchid
Dactylorhiza foliosa is found in the Alpine Garden along with horsetail - two plant survivors from long ago. It is native to the Portuguese island of Madeira and grows in the mountains in the Laurisilva. This is a remnant ancient laurel forest that still exists on Madeira Island. The forest once extended across southern Europe and northwest Africa 15 to 40 million years ago.
The Madeira orchid loves dark and humid places, grows up to 70 cm/2 ft and can be a lilac colour, soft pink, and sometimes white. You can see it blooming from the end of spring to July. Its genus name ‘Dactylorhiza’ describes its finger-like root system. ‘Dacty’ means finger and ‘rhiza’ root. The specific epithet ‘foliosa’ means richly leaved, referring to its long lovely leaves. The leaves of this orchid are sometimes covered in dark purple spots. Our VanDusen orchids are lucky to have these spots - gives them a mysterious prehistoric look.
The pictures were taken in late spring. The second picture was on a day with such heavy rain that most of the flowering plants in the garden were on their backs. But not the Madeira orchid. It stood tall - right in its element.
Text and photos by Hughie Jones