Identification can be difficult because of the sub-species and varieties. Early marsh orchid also hybridises with other marsh orchids and the common spotted orchid. The nominate species can be between 10-30cm. There are often many florets crowded together in the flower spike. They are pale pink and the lip is generally turned down at the edges, sometimes appearing to be folded in two. There are 3-5 apple green leaves at the base of the stem. Sub-species coccinea is somewhat easier to recognise because of its deep red colour and it can be somewhat taller, to 50cm. It has been likened to a small hyacinth.