Dactylorhiza majalis (Reichenbach) P. F. Hunt et Summerhayes – Southern marsh orchid
This species is extremely variable. It is characterized by morphological variations among populations which are generally described as separate entities (species or subspecies) whose main features however intermingle, so as to show their incomplete division, as confirmed by some recent genetic surveys.
On the whole, the species occurs in open habitats, on neutral-alkaline but also slightly acid substrata, damp or wet, from the plain to an altitude of more than 2,200 metres. The preferred habitats are wet meadows, fens, springs, brook banks, sometimes open reed beds.
The species mainly occurs in central northern Europe and it is not present in the Mediterranean area.
The plant is 50 cm high, with a strong hollow stem, which is purplish in the upper part. The lanceolate-oval leaves grow on the whole stem and sometimes they have purple spots on the upper pagina. The upper leaves are bract-shaped.
The plain populations of the Friuli Resurgence area are often referred to the traunsteineri form (recognized as a subspecies or a species), with a narrow stem, nor very compressible, and narrow linear spotted leaves. Their typical habitat is the alkaline fen (Erucastro-Schoenetum), on peaty soils, often wet and sometimes flooded, often in the association of the Molinia damp meadow. This species, too, has undergone a reduction in numbers with the disappearance of whole areas, because of the lowering of the water table and, consequently, of the vegetation changes.
Iconografia delle Orchidee d'Italia
W. Rossi, A. Eldredge Maury (tavole) - 2002
Ministero dell'Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio
Ist. Naz. per la Fauna Selvatica "A. Ghigi"