Dactylorhiza is a genus of terrestrial plants growing from tubers in the Orchidaceae family. There are many species and many hybrids, natural and from gardening. The plants are 30 to 70 cm tall with different shapes in the foliage and different colored flowers. Both are often speckled. Species are widely distributed in the subarctic and temperate northern hemisphere where they grow in wet meadows, bogs and heathland. They like wet soil in a semi-shaded position. The name means 'finger root' in reference to the tubers.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Druce) SoĆ³ is known in the UK as the common spotted orchid; it is widespread through Northern Europe, Russia and even parts of China. It's found in alkaline damp meadows and marshes. It has in the past been classified as Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. fuchsii. The leaves are spotted and the large lower lobe in the flower is key to distinguishing this orchid from similar species. The colour of the flowers is very variable; in var. o'kellyi they are pure white. Photographs by David Pilling; in photo 5 the grid spacing is 10 mm.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii, David PillingDactylorhiza fuchsii, David PillingDactylorhiza fuchsii, David PillingDactylorhiza fuchsii shoot March, David PillingDactylorhiza fuchsii tuber 16th November 2013, David Pilling

Dactylorhiza maculata This species from northwest Africa, Europe to Siberia grows to 60-70 cm tall, has purple flowers , spotted leaves and blooms in June. Photos by Giorgio Pozzi showing them growing in the garden.

Dactylorhiza maculata, Giorgio PozziDactylorhiza maculata, Giorgio PozziDactylorhiza maculata clump, Giorgio Pozzi


Dactylorhiza 'foliorella' is a commercially available hybrid of D. foliosa and D. purpurella. It's an easy garden subject with intensely purple flower spikes in June and seems to tolerate drier soil than Dactylorhiza species in Martin Bohnet's garden.

Dactylorhiza foliorella, Martin BohnetDactylorhiza foliorella, Martin Bohnet

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