John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Dactylorhiza sambucina

This is one of Europe's commonest upland orchids and can be found in a variety of habitats, invariably in montane conditions up to a height of 2500m.  It was first described in 1755 from Sweden and its name refers to the scent of the plant, which was thought to be reminiscent of Elder. It has long been known as the Elder Flowered Orchid.

D. sambucina appears in two distinct colour phases and although they may both occur within the same colonies, unlike D. romana, intermediates are not common. A salmon pink form has occasionally been noted and this has been named zimmermanii . As can be seen from the illustrations, the red form can be highly variable in terms of shade whereas the yellow appears to be stable.  Photographs 2 and 6 come from the Causse region of southern France and depict a plant that is decidedly atypical both in terms of colour and overall form. It seems probable that there has been some genetic interference though the culprit was not immediately evident.

The red form appears to differ from the yellow variety in more ways than simply its colour,  it is both significantly less common and even with the same population, normally flowers up to two weeks earlier. This is an early flowering species which may be found from late April through to July depending on altitude. D. sambucina has a widespread but discontinuous range through the mountainous regions of Europe, from Spain to Russia and from Sicily in the south to Scandinavia in the north.  It can be abundant in its favoured locations.

 The illustrations are from the Vercors and Causse in Southern France, dating from the beginning of June.