In this case it is not some strange home made lens that has caused this affect, it is photographing through the side of a glass jar which has caused this odd result. The plant is really very small, 2cm from base to tip and some distance from the side of the jar. This is not the most interesting thing, however. It is the spotting. This has developed after one year in sterile culture, starting as surface sterilised seed, with one sub-culturing event. This development of spotting in Early Purple Orchids, Orchis mascula, is quite common which makes me think that it is most likely not viral in origin. Well, not unless it is a viral infection present in the seed. There are ways to test for virus activity which are easy to carry out as confirmation, which we may do later in the year just as a matter of curiosity.
What is really rather more interesting a question is what controls the expression of spotting. Individual plants will always maintain the same amount of spotting, a very spotty plant will always be very spotty and a relatively lightly spotted plant will always be lightly spotted. What differs is the distribution of spots.
There is another aspect of spotting which has a certain intrigue and that is the disappearance of spots later in the season.
All these questions, all of which can be answered given a little ingenuity and a supply of plants. So far we have only started to look at pattern development in Common Spotted Orchids, Dactylorhiza fuchsii. These are very tolerant plants that are easy to grow and since they live for a long time we get several years of measurements from each plant.