John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
Home Back to Dactylorhiza species Links

Dactylorhiza romana

D. romana was first described from Italy in 1813 and its name unsurprisingly means roman orchid. It is a widespread orchid living primarily in the central and eastern areas of the Mediterranean, but reaching as far east as Bulgaria and Russia.

It may be found in many sorts of
habitat and soil types but shows a marked preference for woodland, often heavyily shaded and although not exclusively a montane orchid, it appears to prefer higher altitudes being perfectly happy with mountain existence up to the 2000m mark. It normally occurs in colonies which on occasions can cover large areas,  though these populations are seldom tightly packed with plants. D. romana doesn't tend to grow alongside other species of orchid, largely because of its somewhat specialised choice of habitat, it's therefore unlikely to be confused with another taxon. The very similar D. markusii seems to prefer more heavily acidic conditions and even higher altitudes.  Perhaps the one species that may cause cunfusion with the white vatiety of D. romana is O. provincialis though this can usually be differentiated by its dark spotted leaves, differing bracts and the red  markings on the lip.

D. romana occurs in white, yellow and red varieties and as with D. sambucina all colour phases may be present within the same population, intermediates between the forms are common. A number of the photographs depict pink examples which come from a large colony on Lesbos where neither the pure red or white parents were any longer present.

The illustrations are from Gargano, Lesbos and Sicily. The final photograph is a hybrid with D. sambucina.