Dactylorhiza majalis
Common Name: broad-leaved marsh orchid 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Orchidaceae
Native Range: Europe
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 0.50 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: Purple to pink/white flowers and purple-brown leaf blotches
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful


Easily grown in moist, humusy, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best in part shade in hot and humid summer conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Dactylorhiza majalis, commonly known as broad-leaved marsh orchid or western marsh orchid or fan orchid, is a tuberous-rooted terrestrial orchid that typically grows to 6-16” (occasionally to 24”) tall. It is native to damp or wet conditions in meadows, heaths, marshes and along streambanks in both lowland and alpine sites to 6500’ in elevation from Ireland to northern Spain east through southern Sweden, the Dolomites in Italy and the mountains of central and eastern Europe into Russia.

Each plant typically has 4-10 slim, fleshy, ovate to lanceolate, medium green leaves whose upper surfaces are almost always mottled with purple-brown blotches. Lower leaves grow to 7” long with the upper leaves being narrower and progressively shorter up the stem. Flowers bloom from June into July in conical to cylindrical upright terminal racemes (2-6” long), each of which carries up to 50 flowers. Flowers are most often purple but occasionally pink or almost white.

Genus name comes from the Greek words daktylos meaning finger and rhiza meaning root for the finger-like tubers.

Specific epithet comes from the Latin word maius meaning month of May in reference to the flowers of this plant blooming in May which in reality is at the very beginning of the bloom period which in most locations is centered in June.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Rock gardens. Woodland gardens. Meadows.