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Dactylorhiza majalis

This species was first described from Dresden, Germany by Reichenbach in 1828 and was initially ascribed the title Orchis latifolia which after several reclassifications became the D. majalis we are familiar with today.  Its name refers to the month of May which although accurate, is very much at the start of what is an early flowering season for an essentially montane member of the Dactylorhiza genus.

D. majalis is a widespread species with a range throughout the central European alpine region from northern Spain through to the Dolomites and the mountains of eastern Europe, possibly as far as Russia. It can be found in damp or wet conditions on alkaline or mildly acidic substrates in lowland sites or upland areas up to a height of approx 2000 metres. 

It is a species that can vary greatly in its vegetative characteristics but seems to be strangely consistent in flower formation, despite frequent genetic ingression by other similar species from within the genus. The plant itself is robust and the inflorescence, although sturdy is not particularly tall or dense, carrying flowers that are not strikingly marked and appear to be more uniformly purple than D. alpestris which has a distinct and more extensive white peripheral area surrounding the stigmatic cavity.

The leaves are normally dark green and heavily spotted with purple or dark brown blotches on the upper sides, though this cannot be taken as diagnostic as there are recorded examples of both non spotted examples and those with heavy double sided blotching. The pictures are from the Vercors of southern France, dating from the middle of May at which time the plants were just appearing.