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Dactylorhiza aristata

(Fisher's Orchids)


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Common Names

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Common Names in English:

Fisher's Orchids, Dactylorhiza aristata Orchid, Fischer's Orchid, Key Flower, Keyflower, Kodiak Keyflower

Common Names in Japanese:



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Family Orchidaceae

Herbs or rarely vines , perennial , rarely annual , strongly mycotrophic, epiphytic, terrestrial , lithophytic, or rarely aquatic or subterranean , usually green and photosynthetic, some without chlorophyll and saprophytic . Roots subterranean or aerial , tuberoid or stolonoid, usually with spongy , multilayered velamen. Stems erect or pendent or modified into creeping rhizomes, simple or sympodially or monopodially branched, delicate to stout, or thickened as corms or pseudobulbs , or greatly reduced, sometimes proliferous (especially diverse in sympodial orchids) . Leaves solitary, several, or reduced to scales , basal or cauline, alternate, distichous, or sometimes opposite or whorled , either convolute or duplicate , simple, sessile or petiolate ; stipules absent; blade articulate or not, plicate or conduplicate , cylindric , triangular, or laterally flattened, margins entire. Inflorescences terminal or lateral , racemes , spikes, panicles, or rarely cymose , erect or variously pendent, 1 many-flowered, lax or dense, flowering successively or simultaneously. Flowers bisexual [rarely unisexual ], epigynous , resupinate or not, pedicellate or sessile, 3-merous, usually bilaterally symmetric [rarely nearly radially symmetric], with abscission layer between pedicel and peduncle, rarely between ovary and perianth or ovary and pedicel; perianth of 6 tepals in 2 whorls, all petaloid or sepals sometimes greener and more foliaceous in texture ; sepals alike or not, lateral sepals often connate (forming synsepal), or all 3 sepals variously connate and/or adnate or distinct and/or free ; petals 3, median petal modified as lip, commonly larger or differing in form and color, lateral petals commonly but not always similar to sepals; nectaries of various sorts; extrafloral nectaries sometimes present on pedicels, bracts, or leaf sheaths ; stamens usually 1 2( 3, if 3 the 3d modified into sterile staminode), all on side opposite lip, fully or partially adnate to style, forming column; pollen grains in monads or tetrads , usually in 2 8 pollinia, sometimes subdivided into small packets, rarely granular , sometimes pollinia with caudicles and/or stipes; gynoecium 3-carpellate, connate, forming compound , inferior, 1- or 3-locular ovary; style variously adnate to filaments ; stigmas usually 3-lobed, concave to convex , part of median stigma lobe modified into rostellum , often separating anther from fertile portions of stigma, commonly preventing or in some cases facilitating self-pollination ; ovules numerous , anatropous , minute. Fruits capsules, opening (dehiscing) by longitudinal slits, rarely fleshy and indehiscent berries . Seeds numerous (millions in some species), minute; endosperm absent.

Genera ca. 800, species 22,000 35,000 (701 genera, 208 species in the flora ; 1 genus, 6 species introduced) : worldwide except Antarctica, most diverse in tropical forests .

The overall count for orchid genera in the flora includes Spathoglottis plicata Blume, which was recently reported from Palm Beach County, Florida. The plants , known locally since 1982, are apparently widely naturalized in old shellpits. The number of species in the flora includes one newly recognized species in Habenaria that is morphologically described, but not fully treated here. Orchidaceae are by far the largest and most diverse monocot family and rank among the largest families of flowering plants. An accurate account of the number of genera and species has eluded orchid scientists, and species counts published in the last 20 years range from 15,000 to 35,000. New species are continually being described. In addition, numerous natural and artificial hybrids exist.

Although orchids are important in horticulture , most of the plants traded in the national and international market belong to a small number of species and their hybrids in only a few genera; the majority of orchids are not commonly cultivated. Few orchids are economically important outside the horticultural trade: the fruits of several species of Vanilla are the source of the spice vanilla, and the dry roots of some species of Dactylorhiza, Eulophia, and Orchis are made into salep, a flour consumed in northern Africa, the Middle East (especially Turkey), and Asia. Some species are locally used for medicinal purposes; the mucilage from pseudobulbs of several species is sometimes used as glue; and in the Far East the stems of some species of Dendrobium are split into strips used to weave handicrafts. A few orchids have been found to cause contact dermatitis (e.g. , Cypripedium reginae) .

Orchids range vegetatively from Lilliputian plants a few millimeters long (Bulbophyllum Thouars and Platystele Schlechter) to gigantic clusters weighing several hundred kilograms (Grammatophyllum Blume) to some as much as 13.4 meters in height (Sobralia altissima D. E. Bennett & Christenson, a recently described species from Peru) . Likewise, flowers vary in size from less than 1 mm and barely visible to the naked eye (Platystele Garay), to 15 20 cm diameter (some Paphiopedilum Pfitzer, Phragmipedium Rolfe, and Cattleya Lindley spp. ), and ultimately to 76 cm [Phragmipedium caudatum (Lindley) Rolfe]. Weight can vary from a fraction of a gram (many Pleurothallus R. Brown spp.) to nearly 100 grams (Coryanthes Hooker spp.) . Their fragrances vary from delightful (Cattleya Lindley) to repulsive and unbearable (in some species of Bulbophyllum Thouars) . The plants colonize habitats ranging from some of the driest and hottest places on earth to the wettest and coolest, literally occurring from polar regions to the equator. Within the monocots, the most important diagnostic features of Orchidaceae are reduction of adaxial stamens, fusion of the remaining stamens to the gynoecium forming the column, aggregation of pollen into compact pollinia (present elsewhere only in the dicots , in Asclepiadaceae), differentiation of the median petal into the lip, a sometimes complex organ, and the exceedingly small size of the seed, which lacks endosperm. Among other distinguishing characteristics: pollen in the pollinia is usually not available as a nutrient-source (Cleistes Richard ex Lindley being a notable exception), and the often complex interaction with pollinators culminates in the phenomenon of pseudocopulation in several genera (e.g., Ophrys Linnaeus, Caladenia R. Brown sect. Calonema, Drakaea Lindley) . In the latter process , the flower mimics the appearance , the smell, and often the movements of a female wasp, attracting a male of a suitable species that tries to copulate with the flower. It usually only succeeds in becoming attached to a pollinium , which will then be transferred if the male tries to copulate with another flower.

Roots of orchids may be covered with velamen, spongy layers derived from the epidermis ; fleshy thickenings of roots are tuberoids (tubers being restricted to stems) . Stems may be swollen or thickened, underground corms or aerial pseudobulbs. Flowers are often resupinate: the lip (modified median petal) is  lowermost,  usually as a result of the pedicel being twisted or bent in its development by 180°. Pedicellate ovary, usually used in reference to length , refers to the combined pedicel and ovary. Flowers are not always borne on pedicels; when they are, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between a slender ovary and the pedicel. Consequently, because of their slender ovaries, flowers of a  racemose spike  appear to be pedicellate even though they are sessile, while a  spicate raceme  has pedicels so short that they appear to be absent. Orchid flowers often have a modified median sepal, the dorsal sepal. Sepals coalescing at their tips form a synsepal. The middle portion of the upper (adaxial) face of the lip is the disc: it may be a thickened callus and may bear hairs , papillae, or other ornamentation. In orchids the style, stigmas, filaments, and one or more anthers are united to form a column; appendages projecting laterally from the stigma are column wings; the lip may be attached to the protrusion at the base of the column to form a column foot ; lateral sepals that are also attached to the foot form a mentum (chin) . In most orchids the column bears a single anther at its apex; the clinandrium is the cavity within which the anther is borne or embedded . Pollen is borne in discrete masses (pollinia) . Genera with mealy (sectile) pollinia may have pollinia within the anther tapering into a caudicle (stalk ), which is attached to a sticky viscidium . Those with waxy pollinia have pollinia attached to one or two stipes (of stigmatic origin and formed outside the anther), which in turn are attached to a viscidium. The various aggregations of pollinia, caudicles, stipes, and viscidium form a pollinarium , the pollination unit carried by pollinators. The median stigma lobe may have a slender extension or little beak (rostellum), which aids in gluing the pollinarium to the pollinator.[1]

Genus Dactylorhiza

Herbs, perennial , terrestrial , rather succulent, glabrous . Roots from base of stem fascicled tuberoids , usually palmately divided with 2-5 lobes , fleshy . Stems leafy. Leaves several, ascending to recurved, not enfolded around spike, with or without purplish spots; base sheathing in proximal leaves, distal leaves bractlike, not sheathing . Inflorescences terminal , spikes; floral bracts foliaceous , prominent . Flowers few to many, resupinate; dorsal sepal, sometimes lateral sepals, and petals connivent, forming hood distal to lip; petals ± obliquely dilated basally; lip 3-lobed, base spurred, margins occasionally entire, nectarless; pollinaria 2, each with 1 pollen mass; viscidia within single 2-lobed bursicle ; stigma reniform or obcordate , concave with median ridge , hidden behind bursicle. Fruits capsules, ascending, ellipsoid .

Species ca. 75: Alaska, Canada, mostly Eurasian.

Dactylorhiza is a taxonomically complex genus in which closely related species have been combined into species aggregates (P. Vermeulen 1947; R. M. Bateman et al. 1997). Recognition of the aggregate taxa alone reduces the number of species by more than half. Recent research synthesizing morphometric and allozyme data to circumscribe species (R. M. Bateman and I. Denholm 1983, 1985, 1989; M. Hédren 1996), and DNA sequences and chromosome studies to determine the relationships of those species (R. M. Bateman et al. 1997; A. M. Pridgeon et al. 1997), is shedding much light on the evolution of the genus. The diploid lineage (2n = 40) appears to have evolved in Asia, migrating and speciating to both the west and northeast. Several alloploidy events (hybridization followed by chromosome doubling) occurred recently in Europe, apparently between the distinct diploids D. fuchsii and D. incarnata. That generated a highly complex suite of poorly distinguishable prospecies of 2n = 80, treated as a single species by some authorities and as many species by others (L. V. Averyanov 1990). Of the two North American species, D. aristata is a native diploid originating during the northeasterly migration, and D. majalis is an allotetraploid that originated in Europe and presumably is naturalized in North America (H. J. Clase and S. J. Meades 1996).

Despite an extensive literature, much taxonomic work still remains to be done.[2]

Physical Description

Species Dactylorhiza aristata

Plants 5-40 cm. Leaves 2-5; blade often purple-spotted or suffused with purple, proximal blade 3-18 × 1-6 cm. Inflorescences: floral bracts lanceolate, 15-50 × 5-15 mm, the larger often suffused with purple, extending well beyond flowers. Flowers magenta, pink, or white; sepals prominently oblique and erect at base , upwardly curving forward or downward, ovate-lanceolate, 9-11(-13) × 3-6 mm, awned ; petals ovate-lanceolate, 6-9 × 3-4 mm, awned; lip often magenta- to red-spotted, suborbiculate to obcordate , 8-12 × 8-12 mm, shallowly 3-lobed or entire, tip of middle lobe apiculate ; spur 5.5-7.5 mm, 1/2-2/3 as long as ovary. 2n = 40, 42. [source]

Dactylorhiza aristata var. kodiakensis has been separated primarily on the basis of its being uniform instead of variable like the typical variety (C. A. Luer 1975) ; supplementary characters all partially overlap. While this variety is not recognized here, variability in the Alaskan Fischer's orchids merits detailed taxonomic study. [source]

Habit: Forb/herb

Flowers: Bloom Period: April, May, June.


Moist open tundra , meadows, bogs ; 0--800 m [3].


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Duration: Perennial


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Dactylorhiza aristata var. kodiakensis Luer & G. M. Luer • Dactylorhiza aristata< /i> (Fisch. Ex Lindl.) Soó • Orchis aristata Fisch. Ex Lindl. • Orchis aristata Fischer Ex Lindley


Registrant name : This is a natural hybrid

Originator name: This is a natural hybrid

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Dactylorhiza

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 141 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus. Here are just 100 of them:

D. ampolai (Dactylorhiza Ampolai Orchid) · D. aristata (Fisher's Orchids) · D. aristata var. aristata (Keyflower) · D. aristata var. kodiakensis (Kodiak Keyflower) · D. Aristocrat (Dactylorhiza Aristocrat Orchid) · D. Aschersoniana (Dactylorhiza Aschersoniana Orchid) · D. aschersoniana {nothovar} mulignensis (Dactylorhiza Aschersoniana {nothovar} Mulignensis Orchid) · D. aschersoniana {nothovar} templinensis (Dactylorhiza Aschersoniana {nothovar} Templinensis Orchid) · D. aschersoniana {nothovar} uliginosa (Dactylorhiza Aschersoniana {nothovar} Uliginosa Orchid) · D. aschersoniana {nothovar} wisniewski (Dactylorhiza Aschersoniana {nothovar} Wisniewski Orchid) · D. Atlanta (Dactylorhiza Atlanta Orchid) · D. baicalica (Dactylorhiza Baicalica Orchid) · D. balabaniana {nothosubsp} mizabensis (Dactylorhiza Balabaniana {nothosubsp} Mizabensis Orchid) · D. Barbara (Dactylorhiza Barbara Orchid) · D. baumanniana (Baumann's Dactylorhiza) · D. Biskaya (Dactylorhiza Biskaya Orchid) · D. braunii (Dactylorhiza Braunii Orchid) · D. Caldera (Dactylorhiza Caldera Orchid) · D. Calibra (Dactylorhiza Calibra Orchid) · D. Carlio (Dactylorhiza Carlio Orchid) · D. carnea (Dactylorhiza Carnea Orchid) · D. claudiopolitana (Dactylorhiza Claudiopolitana Orchid) · D. cordigera (Heart Shaped Lip Dactylorhiza) · D. cruenta (Dactylorhiza Cruenta Orchid) · D. dinglensis (Dactylorhiza Dinglensis Orchid) · D. dubreuilhii (Dactylorhiza Dubreuilhii Orchid) · D. dufftiana (Dactylorhiza Dufftiana Orchid) · D. dufftii (Dactylorhiza Dufftii Orchid) · D. Dutch Angel (Dactylorhiza Dutch Angel Orchid) · D. elata (Stately Dactylorhiza) · D. elodes (Dactylorhiza Elodes Orchid) · D. engadinensis (Dactylorhiza Engadinensis Orchid) · D. ericetorum (Dactylorhiza Ericetorum Orchid) · D. Eskimo Nell (Dactylorhiza Eskimo Nell Orchid) · D. Estella (Dactylorhiza Estella Orchid) · D. Florina (Dactylorhiza Florina Orchid) · D. Foliorella (Dactylorhiza Foliorella Orchid) · D. foliosa (Richly-Leaved Dactylorhiza) · D. folioso-maculata (Dactylorhiza Folioso-Maculata Orchid) · D. Foliosomaculata (Dactylorhiza Foliosomaculata Orchid) · D. Formosa (Dactylorhiza Formosa Orchid) · D. fuchsii (Dactylorhiza Fuchsii Orchid) · D. fuchsii carpatica (Common Spotted Orchid) · D. fuchsii x incarnata (Southern Marsh Orchid) · D. fuchsii {subsp} okellyi (Dactylorhiza Fuchsii {subsp} Okellyi Orchid) · D. fuschii (Common Spotted Orchid) · D. Glendora (Dactylorhiza Glendora Orchid) · D. grandis (Dactylorhiza Grandis Orchid) · D. hallii (Dactylorhiza Hallii Orchid) · D. hatagirea (Himalayan Marsh Orchid) · D. hebridensis (Dactylorhiza Hebridensis Orchid) · D. hybrid A (Dactylorhiza Hybrid A Orchid) · D. hybrid B (Dactylorhiza Hybrid B Orchid) · D. hybrid C (Dactylorhiza Hybrid C Orchid) · D. hybrid D (Dactylorhiza Hybrid D Orchid) · D. hybrid E (Dactylorhiza Hybrid E Orchid) · D. Hybrid Ignota (Dactylorhiza Hybrid Ignota Orchid) · D. iberica (Dactylorhiza Iberica Orchid) · D. incarnata (Dactylorhiza Incarnata Orchid) · D. incarnata baumgartneriana (Early Marsh Orchid) · D. incarnata pulchella (Spotted Orchid) · D. incarnata ssp coccina (Early Marsh Orchid) · D. incarnata {ssp.} coccinea (Dactylorhiza Incarnata {ssp.} Coccinea Orchid) · D. incarnata {subsp} ochroleuca (Dactylorhiza Incarnata {subsp} Ochroleuca Orchid) · D. incarnata {var} haematodes (Dactylorhiza Incarnata {var} Haematodes Orchid) · D. incarnata {var} serotina (Dactylorhiza Incarnata {var} Serotina Orchid) · D. insignis (Dactylorhiza Insignis Orchid) · D. intermedia (Dactylorhiza Intermedia Orchid) · D. ishorica (Dactylorhiza Ishorica Orchid) · D. jenensis (Dactylorhiza Jenensis Orchid) · D. kalopissii (Kalopiss' Dactylorhiza) · D. Karel (Dactylorhiza Karel Orchid) · D. kelleriana (Dactylorhiza Kelleriana Orchid) · D. kerneriorum (Dactylorhiza Kerneriorum Orchid) · D. komiensis (Dactylorhiza Komiensis Orchid) · D. krylowii (Dactylorhiza Krylowii Orchid) · D. lapponica (Lapland Marsh Orchid) · D. Larissa (Dactylorhiza Larissa Orchid) · D. Lari's Purple (Dactylorhiza Lari's Purple Orchid) · D. Latifoliomaculata (Dactylorhiza Latifoliomaculata Orchid) · D. Latirella (Dactylorhiza Latirella Orchid) · D. lehmanii (Dactylorhiza Lehmanii Orchid) · D. Lindholm (Dactylorhiza Lindholm Orchid) · D. longifolia (Dactylorhiza Longifolia Orchid) · D. Lucy (Dactylorhiza Lucy Orchid) · D. Macarena (Dactylorhiza Macarena Orchid) · D. maculata (Dactylorhiza Maculata Orchid) · D. maculata battandieri (Early Purple Orchid) · D. maculata deflexa (Heath Spotted Orchid) · D. maculata elodes (Heath Spotted Orchid) · D. maculata islandica (Heath Spotted Orchid) · D. maculata ssp ericetorum (Heath Spotted Orchid) · D. maculata {subsp} elodes (Dactylorhiza Maculata {subsp} Elodes Orchid) · D. maculata {subsp} ericetorum (Dactylorhiza Maculata {subsp} Ericetorum Orchid) · D. maculata {subsp} islandica (Dactylorhiza Maculata {subsp} Islandica Orchid) · D. Madonna (Dactylorhiza Madonna Orchid) · D. majalis (Dactylorhiza Majalis Orchid) · D. majalis calcifugiens (Broad Leaf Marsh Orchid) · D. majalis hybrid (Chb.) Hunt & Summerh.) · D. majalis praetermissa (Southern Marsh Orchid)

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal February 28, 2008:



  1. Gustavo A. Romero-González, Germán Carnevali Fernández-Concha, Robert L. Dressler, Lawrence K. Magrath & George W. Argus "Orchidaceae". in Flora of North America Vol. 26 Page 15, 16, 17, 26, 27, 490, 491, 617. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  2. Charles J. Sheviak, Paul M. Catling, Susan J. Meades & Richard M. Bateman "Dactylorhiza". in Flora of North America Vol. 26 Page 491, 496, 577, 579, 580. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  3. "Dactylorhiza aristata". in Flora of North America Vol. 26 Page 578. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
Last Revised: 2015-01-30