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Dactylorhiza purpurella (northern marsh orchid)

Northern marsh orchid is a European species with vivid purple-violet flowers.
Dactylorhiza purpurella (northern marsh orchid) flower

Dactylorhiza purpurella (northern marsh orchid) (Photo: Matti Niissalo)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Dactylorhiza purpurella (T.Stephenson & T.A.Stephenson) Soó

Common name: 

northern marsh orchid

Conservation status: 

Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria; listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).


Damp or wet habitats with calcareous, neutral or slightly acid soils, such as marshy fields, road verges, lake margins, fens, marshes, flushes, coastal cliffs, dune slacks, and sometimes peat bogs and open woodland.

Key Uses: 

None known.

Known hazards: 

None known.


Genus: Dactylorhiza

About this species

Dactylorhiza purpurella is difficult to distinguish from other marsh orchids, such as D. praetermissa, and was not described as a separate species until 1920. Northern marsh orchid can be recognised by its lip marked with dark spots and lines that do not usually form loops, as well as by its vivid purple-violet flower colour.

Dactylorhiza is one of the most complex orchid genera. It comprises about 50 often poorly defined species. Most occur in Eurasia, but two species are also found in North America.

The name Dactylorhiza derives from the Greek words daktylos meaning finger and rhiza meaning roots, referring to the finger-shaped underground tuber typical of members of this genus.


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