Dactylorhiza maculata

Dactylorhiza maculata, known as the heath spotted-orchid[2] or moorland spotted orchid, is an herbaceous perennial plant of the family Orchidaceae. It is widespread in mountainous regions across much of Europe from Portugal and Iceland east to Russia. It is also found in Algeria, Morocco, and western Siberia.[1][3]

Dactylorhiza maculata
Dactylorhiza maculata LC0232.jpg
Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. maculata
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Orchidoideae
Genus: Dactylorhiza
D. maculata
Binomial name
Dactylorhiza maculata
  • Orchis maculata L. (1753) (basionym)
  • Dactylorchis maculata (L.) Verm. (1947)
  • Orchis basilica L. ex Klinge
  • Dactylorhiza battandieri Raynaud
  • Dactylorhiza caramulensis (Verm.) D.Tyteca
  • Orchis elodes Griseb.
  • Dactylorchis elodes (Griseb.) Verm.
  • Dactylorhiza elodes (Griseb.) Aver.
  • Orchis danguyana P.Fourn.
  • Dactylorhiza kolaensis (Montell) Aver.
  • Dactylorhiza montellii (Verm.) P.Delforge
  • Orchis ericetorum (E.F.Linton) A.Benn.
  • Dactylorhiza islandica (Á.Löve & D.Löve) Aver.
  • Orchis solida Moench
  • Orchis comosa F.W.Schmidt
  • Orchis tetragona Heuff.
  • Orchis macedonica Griseb.
  • Orchis biermannii Ortmann
  • Orchis nemorosa Montandon
  • Orchis calvelli] A.Terracc.
  • Dactylorhiza savogiensis D.Tyteca & Gathoye
  • Dactylorhiza schurii (Klinge) Aver.
  • Orchis transsilvanica Schur
  • Dactylorhiza transsilvanica (Schur) Aver
  • Orchis candidissima Krock.
  • Orchis ochrantha (Pancic) H.Fleischm.
  • also many names for varieties and subspecies


The name of the genus Dactylorhiza is formed from Greek words δάκτυλος "daktylos" meaning "finger" and ρίζα "rhiza" meaning "root" and refers to the tubers of this plant, that are split into several tubercles. The specific Latin name "maculata" (=spotted) refers to the stained leaves. The scientific binomial name of this plant was initially Orchis maculata, proposed by the Swedish naturalist and botanist Carl von Linné (1707–1778) in 1753. The name has been subsequently amended to the one currently accepted (Dactylorhiza maculata), by the Hungarian botanist Károly Rezső Soó (1903–1980) in 1962. In German this plant is called Geflecktes Knabenkraut, in French is called Orchis tacheté, in Italy is called Orchide macchiata.


Close-up on a flower of Dactylorhiza maculata

Dactylorhiza maculata reaches on average 15–45 centimetres (5.9–17.7 in) of height, with a maximum of 70 centimetres (28 in). These plants are bulbous geophytes, forming their buds in underground tubers or bulbs, organs that annually produce new stems, leaves and flowers. Furthermore, these orchids are "terrestrial", because unlike "epiphyte" species they do not live at the expense of other large plants.

This orchid has an erect, glabrous and cylindrical stem, with a streaked surface. The leaves are oblong or oval-lanceolate, with dark ellipsoid-shaped "spots" on the surface (hence the species name). The leaves are amplexicaul and can be either radical (basal) or cauline.

The underground part of the stem has two webbed tubers each one more or less deeply divided into several lobes or tubercles (characteristic of the genus Dactylorhiza), the first one plays the important functions of supplying the stem, while the second one collects nutrient materials for the development of the plant that will form in the coming year.

The inflorescence is 5–15 centimetres (2.0–5.9 in) long and it is composed of flowers gathered in dense spikes. The flowers are placed in the axils of bracts membranous and lanceolate-shaped. Their colors vary from light pink to purple or white with darker streaks mainly on the labellum (sometimes at the margins of tepals). The flowers reaches on average 10–15 centimetres (3.9–5.9 in). The flowers are hermaphrodite and insect pollinated.


The heath spotted orchid prefers sunny places on lowlands or hills, it can be found in slightly damp meadows, but also in the undergrowth of dry forests, in areas with bushes and at the edges of streams. They grow on siliceous and calcareous substrate, at an altitude up to 2,200 metres (7,200 ft) above sea level.


Orchids in the genus Dactylorhiza are mycorrhizal generalists. D. maculata has been found to form associations with a range of common species of mycorrhizal fungi in the Tulasnellaceae, as well as with species in the Ceratobasidiaceae and Sebacinales.[4][5]

Dactylorhiza maculata is pollinated by insects, especially bumblebees. The flowers are 'food deceptive', ie. do not provide nectar to their pollinators.[6]


Many names have been proposed for species and varieties in the species. As of June 2014, the following are accepted:[1]

  1. Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. maculata (L.) Soó - most of species range
  2. Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. battandieri (Raynaud) H.Baumann & Künkele (1988) - Algeria
  3. Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. caramulensis Verm. (1970) - France, Spain, Portugal
  4. Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. elodes (Griseb.) Soó (1962) - much of Europe from Portugal and Iceland east to European Russia
  5. Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. ericetorum (E.F.Linton) P.F.Hunt & Summerh. (1965) - British Isles, Sweden, Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain
  6. Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. islandica (Á.Löve & D.Löve) Soó (1962) - Iceland
  7. Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. podesta (Landwehr) Kreutz in C.A.J.Kreutz & H.Dekker (2000) - Netherlands
  8. Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. savogiensis (D.Tyteca & Gathoye) Kreutz (2004) - France, Spain, Italy
  9. Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. schurii (Klinge) Soó (1967) - Romania, Ukraine
  10. Dactylorhiza maculata subsp. transsilvanica (Schur) Soó (1962) - Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Czech Republic



  1. ^ a b c Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  2. ^ "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-01-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  3. ^ Altervista Flora Italiana, Orchide macchiata, Dactylorhiza maculata (L.) Soó includes European distribution map
  4. ^ PLoS One - Variation in Mycorrhizal Associations with Tulasnelloid Fungi among Populations of Five Dactylorhiza Species
  5. ^ Scientific Reports - Habitat Driven Variation in Mycorrhizal Communities in the Terrestrial Orchid Genus Dactylorhiza
  6. ^ Nordic Journal of Botany - Pollination and Reproductive Success of Two Colour Variants of a Deceptive Orchid, Dactylorhiza maculata (Orchidaceae)
  • Pignatti S. - Flora d'Italia (3 voll.) - Edagricole - 1982
  • Tutin, T.G. et al. - Flora Europaea, second edition - 1993

External linksEdit