The common spotted orchid is a member of the genus Dactylorhiza in which species generally have dense spikes of many flowers together. Its name is derived from the black or dark purplish spots which are often present on its strap-like leaves, though this is a feature shared with other species in the same genus and which may also be absent. The common spotted orchid’s flowers are generally rather whitish and are never the intense pink of some species of marsh orchid in the same genus. They occur in rather conical spikes of flowers, which often look rather weak beside the robust flowers of some other species such as the southern marsh orchid. There are three obvious lobes of similar size to one another on the lower lip of each flower of the common spotted orchid.