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Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid
Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides

The Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid, also known as Pugsley's Marsh-orchid, is endemic to Britain and Ireland, where it occurs in just a few localised sites. Because of the ease with which it hybridises, this orchid is one of the most difficult species to identify with certainty. In Scotland the situation is further complicated by the presence of the Lapland Orchid, currently treated as a subspecies Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides subsp. lapponica which is also very localised and differs from the plants described below in having very darkly coloured spots and circles on the upper surfaces of the leaves, and flower lips with very dark, almost crimson, rings, lines and spots. Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid is found in very specific habitats; it requires very wet, base-rich conditions influenced by the presence of limestone or chalk. Only in Scotland does the subspecies lapponica stray into the fringes of slightly more acidic, but still very wet, heathland. The flowering time depends upon the plants' geographical location: those in the south and west flower in May, but those in the north don't usually begin flowering until late June and can still be found in flower in late July. Wales is one of the strongholds of this orchid. It is well known from Anglesey and the Llŷn Peninsula in the north, and from Borth Bog further south. There are scattered sites in England; in Scotland the Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid appears in localised sites, often keeping company with the subspecies lapponica; and in Ireland it is more common in the south west, while there are just a few known sites in Northern Ireland. In Scandinavia, Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides is replaced by Dactylorhiza lapponica, which is described as a distinct species.

Distribution Map Key Features
distribution map

Records for the Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid from BSBI are shown on the map with most recent in front. (Hover the mouse over the small map to expand it.)

CLICK HERE to visit the BSBI website page for updated data and maps with separated data for individual record periods.

Plant: 6 to 40cm tall; stem green, purple towards the tip, very fragile and somewhat wavy in shape.
Leaves: 1 basal leaf and 2 to 4 narrow, pointed sheathing leaves well spaced along the stem; green, usually unspotted or with faint brownish spots and bars - spotting is more common in northerly plants.
Bracts: narrow and pointed, washed reddish purple.
Flowers: Relatively few (usually 6 to 14) and quite large, held in a lax inflorescence which is variable and somewhat ragged in shape; purplish-pink. Upper sepal and petals form a hood over the lip, which is large relative to the size of the flower and variable in shape but usually flattened and with 3 distinct lobes, the lateral 2 folded downwards. The lip is pink-purple, and white towards the base, with very variable amounts of dark, variously shaped markings.

Image Gallery for Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides

Pollination Taxonomy & Hybrids

Little is known, but it is likely that pollination is carried out by bees and other insects. Vegetative reproduction may be viable.

The specific name traunsteinerioides honours an Austrian pharmacist, Joseph Traunsteiner.
Subspecies: Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides subsp. lapponica (described above) appears in Scotland.
Varieties: Var. albiflora is rare and has white flowers.
Hybrids: Dactylorhiza x silvae-gabretae is a hybrid with Common Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii and occurs in Yorkshire, Ireland and Anglesey. Dactylorhiza x dufftii is a hybrid with Early Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata and is found in North Wales. Dactylorhiza x jenensis is a hybrid with Heath Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza maculata and is found in North Wales, Ireland and Yorkshire. Crosses with Southern Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa also occur freqently where the two species grow together.

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