Dactylorhiza romana - Roman Orchid

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae

Roman Orchid Dactylorhiza romana

Above: A very pale example of Dactylorhiza romana - Picture by kind permission of Anne Horsefall

The flowers of this orchid are very variable in colour - pink, reddish, white, cream and yellow are all recorded.


Dactylorhiza romana grows to a maximum of 50cm but most plants are between 15 and 35cm tall. The plant has 3-9 narrow, pointed leaves which are unspotted. The inflorescence is lax when the flowers are fully open, and the flowers themselves vary in colour from yellow to magenta. The two colour forms are frequently found growing together and there are also intermediates.


The distribution of the Roman Orchid is mainly in the central and eastern Mediterranean, but the true extent of its range is still unknown due to confusion with other similar-looking species.


Roman Orchid has a preference for slightly acidic conditions, and it can most often be found in grassy areas that are populated with bushes, as well as in garrigue and in open woodland habitats. This orchid is tolerant of both partial shade and full sun.

Flowering times

Dactylorhiza romana flowers can be seen from March to the end of April.

The specimen shown on this page was photographed in Crete.


The genus name Dactylorhiza means 'finger-like roots', while the specific epithet romana means 'of Rome'.

Reference sources

The Plant List

Pierre Delforge (2005) Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; A&C Black

Sue Parker's latest ebook is a revised and enlarged edition of Wild Orchids in The Burren. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Sue Parker's new ebook is a comprehensive and fully revised edition of her acclaimed field guide to the Wild Orchids of Wales. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Sue Parker's 5-star acclaimed field guide to the Wild Orchids of the Algarve is now available as an ebook. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Please Help Us: If you have found this information interesting and useful, please consider helping to keep First Nature online by making a small donation towards the web hosting and internet costs.

Any donations over and above the essential running costs will help support the conservation work of Plantlife, the Rivers Trust and charitable botanic gardens - as do author royalties and publisher proceeds from books by Pat and Sue.

© 1995 - 2024 First Nature: a not-for-profit volunteer-run resource

Please help to keep this free resource online...

Terms of use - Privacy policy - Disable cookies - Links policy