Dactylorhiza traunsteineri

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaOrchidaceaeDactylorhizaDactylorhiza traunsteineri


A tuberous perennial herb of damp, base-rich habitats such as marshes, water-meadows, flushes and fens. It sometimes prefers more open flushed or very wet areas with reduced competition. Lowland.



World Distribution

Eurosiberian Boreo-temperate element.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Fen, marsh and swamp (not wooded)

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 8

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.9

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 14.9

Annual Precipitation (mm): 978

Height (cm): 30

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Non-bulbous geophyte (rhizome, corm or tuber)



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 74

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 40

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: 0.78

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Dactylorhiza traunsteineri (Sauter ex Reichb.) Soo

Narrow-leaved marsh-orchid

Status: scarce 


D. traunsteineri is confined to wet, base-rich habitats, in particular to fens and flushes. Although very local, it is sometimes present in considerable numbers, loosely rooted in the moist substrate in areas where there is only modest competition. It is usually accompanied by Schoenus nigricans, whilst other frequent associates include Menyanthes trifoliata, Pinguicula vulgaris, Primula farinosa, Valeriana dioica and Carex species typical of base-rich flushes.

This is a perennial species. Reproduction is by seed, and as with other Dactylorhiza species, it is amongst the quickest of terrestrial orchids to achieve maturity and to flower. Mature plants will often produce lateral shoots which later develop into new tubers. These tubers can then become detached and form separate plants.

At present, populations appear to be stable in numbers, but by requiring a damp habitat, threats to their survival will come from direct drainage and from any activities which cause a general lowering of the water-table. Planting of conifers within close proximity also imposes a similar drying-out effect, whilst a reduction in grazing places D. traunsteineri at a competitive disadvantage.

D. traunsteineri is the principal member of a complex range of closely-related taxa. True D. traunsteineri is known to occur in the Alps and surrounding regions as well as from central and north-west Europe. The conspecificity of our plant with that from the Alps and Scandinavia has sometimes been doubted (Bateman & Denholm 1983) but has recently been demonstrated by Roberts (1988) and Foley (1990). In the Baltic states and parts of western Russia, it intergrades with D. russowii, and in northern Scandinavia with D. lapponica, The latter has also recently been recorded from Scotland and is probably only subspecifically distinct from D. traunsteineri.

Like most species of marsh-orchid, it is variable in form both within and between populations. It has in the past been a rather misunderstood plant and is still probably overlooked at higher altitudes, especially in Scotland. It hybridises readily with D. fuchsii and D. maculata and to a lesser extent with other Dactylorhiza species. Hybrids persist at some sites from which D. traunsteineri has apparently been lost.


M. J. Y. Foley

Atlas text references

Atlas (342b)
Allan B, Woods P
1993.  Wild orchids of Scotland.
Bateman & Denholm (1983a)
Curtis TGF, McGough HN
1988.  The Irish Red Data Book. 1. Vascular Plants.
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Jenkinson MN
1991.  Wild orchids of Dorset.
Sanford M
1991.  The orchids of Suffolk.
Sell P [D ], Murrell G
1996.  Flora of Great Britain and Ireland, 5. Butomaceae-Orchidaceae.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.